A Travellerspoint blog

Don't chicken out...there's something fishy in the bathroom

overcast 50 °F

A few nights ago while at my desk in my room I heard a splash. I figured my 奶奶 was mopping or doing the dishes so I didn't give it another thought. My family invited friends over so for dinner we had 3 older women crammed at our already narrow dinner table. They at some point all commented on my "good" chopstick skills. I know they are all just being polite. My chopsticks are better then when I first got here, but are nothing to be marveled at.
Once again at dinner I heard this splashing noise. It was definitely coming from our bathroom. I asked where 爷爷 was and they said he was taking a shower. From where I was sitting I could see the shower in the bathroom, no lights were on and it was definitely not being used. That's when I heard the splash again. Finally I asked Mary what that noise was.
"Oh that?" She says. " It's a fish, tomorrow we will eat it" and goes back to eating her 生菜.
Sure enough after dinner I walk in the bathroom and there sitting in a shallow pan uncomfortably close to our toilet is this interesting black fish. image

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I tried to touch it but my aunty said I would get wet as it has been splashing all night. I said its probably scared, because it knows it's dinner. Aunty thought that was pretty funny.
But the story doesn't end there.
I'm sitting at my desk in my room doing homework, and my 奶奶 peeks her head in my room and shuts my door. Sometimes they do this when they know I'm doing homework and they want to watch television. After about 10 minutes I still didn't hear the tv but I didn't think much of it, and then I heard it. Clucking...and then a loud squawk. If I didn't have chickens growing up I wouldn't know what on earth that noise was, but i did. I was curious but I had a general notion of why there was a chicken in our house. I still wanted to check it out though so I did the whole "I need more water" and as soon as I walked out of my room, I kid you not... my whole family; aunty, uncle, grandma, grandpa and mary, were in the living room and upon my entrance they all laughed hysterically.
What's happening? I said
And my 奶奶 replies with just a simple "鸡" (chicken)
"What?" I said, and I was led over to the infamous ping pong table, my 奶奶 pulls out from under it a huge metal bowl with another bowl flipped over on top to make a lid...
She points and once again says "鸡" everyone loses it at this point. And now I am so confused I don't know what is going on. They can tell i don't quite understand, so my aunty runs over and against my grans protesting takes the top bowl off and the chicken inside goes ape shit.
I am sure you can all imagine what happens from that point on, there was a very unhappy chicken loose in our house. And yes we did have chicken for dinner the next night, with a side of fish as well.

Posted by Kaceyroo 01:36 Archived in China Comments (5)

Most intesting blog post ever!!!!

Sorry I lied...

storm 50 °F

This blog post is one i wrote a while ago and have had on back stock. I have so much I want to say and so little spare time anymore. So in the meantime when I am trying to write my blog post about my first day teaching at the migrant school and the chicken loose in my house...enjoy this post about......
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The suspense is totally killing you....
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Traffic!! Hooray...a cultural blog :) and since I feel like since there are rarely huge touristy events in my life, I can find more interesting and uniquely chinese things to tell you all. Plus I also just hate the fact that my last post was about panties. *shudder*
I have yet to explain my daily commute to school and I'm not sure if this will be that interesting so I apologize in advance, but none the less I am writing it. (:
Some things I have noticed about myself since moving into my host family is that I have become surprisingly OCD about how clean my room is. Just today I took a good 10 min rearranging the books on my desk till I liked exactly how they looked. I think I have become like this for a few reasons.
1) pure boredom
2) I only have a few belongings so I like them to all be consolidated
3) in china when your room is tidy it gives the impression you are a responsible person (I'm fooling them all!!! Mwaha)

So every night before I go to bed, I tidy up my room, I pack my bag and I lay out my outfit for the following day. I am not too much of a morning person and I don't know why I have never done this before, but it is so convenient!! I wake up in the morning and everything is planned out in 15 min intervals. I wake up at 6, I wash my face and brush my teeth ( unless its a day like today where I used my face wash as my toothpaste and my toothpaste as my face wash...whyyyyyyy?*facepalm*) I do my makeup, i do my hair, I get myself dressed and make my bed, and by 7 o clock I am eating breakfast. At 7:10 I leave and am on the 7:15 bus. Every morning without a hitch. It's so convenient!
The bus is something all on its own. I am completely impressed with the amount of buses they have and how often they come.A new bus will arrive every 10 min at the latest, the trains come every 3 min. My bus ride takes me about 20 minutes to get to school. It's not that I live far, I have walked home before and it only took about 40 minutes, but there is construction and lots of traffic. The buses are old. And LOUD! Half the time they sound like they are going to rattle apart and I am worried that one day the whole bus will just collapse into a pile of bolts on the road. For how crappy the busses are they have a pretty high tech system for paying. It is similar to the orca card, but it is a Nanjing city card. You can pay for cabs, the train, buses and sometimes even meals with it. And every time you tap it, it tells you exactly how much is left. I am currently at ¥0.80. =\ I need to go refill it.
Because I get on at the first stop I always get a seat which is not always true on my way home. I usually sit in the back, so as to try and avoid the people staring me the whole time. A few times I have been lucky enough to have the bus all to myself, at least for a few stops, who said china was over populated?? Although I do admit, nothing is more comfortable then having so many people crammed onto one bus that there isn't even a need to hold on to the hand rails, the pure mass of people holds the riders together. But like I mentioned, today was a normal bus day, a few older women and a few older men, their cards shout out an announcement of "老人卡"(old person card) when they tap it. I can't help but to smirk every time, OLD PEOPLE APPROACHING.... Is all I hear in my head. Today besides the old people there was a young dad and his 7 year old son. The son sits right up front and a few minutes after he opened the window, then shut it, then opened, then...you get my point, he turns and looks right at me. I've been spotted and whats even worse is by a child. The sight of a 外国人is sometimes way too exciting...he turns looks right at his dad and yells:
"Baba there is a Foreigner on our bus!! She's sitting in the back!!" And with that everyone turns and stares right at me...all that's left to do is smile and wave boys just smile and wave.

I would like to explain something else about the traffic situation in Nanjing, and China in general. There is a problem with it. And I'm not saying this as an "outsider" I'm stating a fact that even locals support. Traffic absolutely sucks. To help better explain this I have taken the time to draw you a small sketch of how exactly the street system works in China. Or I guess I could say to the best of my understanding because honestly i don't understand it. On more then one occasion I have sworn we were all going to die while going through an intersection but it was like a synchronized swim move, we all fit together perfectly as if these strangers have been practicing and driving with each other for years.
But without further ado, my map.
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So let me walk you through this. That cute little stick figure on the right is me, and my destination, school, is on the left of the paper. First things first is to cross the scooter speedway. And I'm not talking about one little scooter, I'm talking about hundreds of scooters and bicycles. You know how everyone complains that bicyclists are just glorified pedestrians who don't have to follow the law? It's the same in china when it comes to...well...any sort of motorized vehicle, but it is even worse with the scooters. So once I pass through the sea of rusty beeping scooters and mopeds and tetanus on wheels I have made it to the "crosswalk." They should rename this as the "get hit here spot" and the little green man needs a word bubble above his head with an encouraging "good luck!"
Like driving in the US you are legally allowed to turn right on a red turn. In China I wouldn't say this is quite the case. It is absolutely EXPECTED you will turn right on a red turn. And if you don't get prepared for some major honking attacks. There are a few different types of honks I have noticed and I feel it is important to differentiate between them.
1) get the hell out of my way honk
2) hey get out of my lane honk
3) SPEED UP honk
4) you should be turning right now
5) I'm gonna go around you now so please don't turn
6) I'm about to hit you if you don't move (this one I hear a lot!)
7) I just feel like honking
8) I'm sitting in traffic and am bored honk
9) I don't even realize I'm honking

Meow....imagine you are driving to your home 10 minutes away. Chances are you wouldn't use any of the previous mentioned honks. However, in China? You will use all of these in probably a 2 block radius at least once if not more. And it is not a rare occasion to see someone driving down the road with nothing in their way start honking. It's ingrained in them. It's funny because I actually remember reading something about this in Peter Hessler's book River Town and thinking he was just whining or overreacting. But no....it's the truth. I will count the honks on the way to school tomorrow and will report back. I'm just happy my house is down an alley and away from the main road, unlike the dorms where you can hear the continuous honking in your room at all hours of the day.

So back to crossing the street. If you had a random stray thought like this blog just did while crossing the street you probably wouldn't have noticed the car flying through the intersection on the right hand red turn and now you are either
A) being honked at
B) dead

Hopefully it's A. Although I have yet to see anyone get hit by a car, I know that it is the number one cause of death in China. (Don't worry mom we walk in groups!! Harder to get away with hitting 5 foreigners instead of just one! Or is it just an easier target.....hmmm...)
After I escape through the turning cars I am now "safely" in the target zone, errr I mean crosswalk. The one thing that I do really like about the intersections and traffic lights here is that they all have counters. So whilst in the crosswalk I know I have approximately 25 seconds to get the hell out of the way. Once I have crossed the "4" lanes of traffic (it's actually more like 6) I have made it to the other right turn red light scenario. These make me the most nervous because if you can't make it across and the light turns green, there you are....a squatting duck in the middle of traffic.
The other really important thing that I forgot to mention, is that in China when you make eye contact with a driver while in the crosswalk or while you are in the middle of the road it is so THEY know you see them and you won't walk in front of them, not because they see you and are planning on stopping and letting you cross.
So if all goes as planned you can cross the through the turning cars, dodge a few scooters, and safely arrive at school. It takes probably 3 minutes to cross the street altogether and this is the same for almost every intersection. All in all on a good day I have probably been nearly missed by 4 cars, been honked at less then 10 times and made it to school alive.
Now for the funny part of this whole little scenario. They are trying to control the intersections. There are close to probably 5 police officers at every intersection. One in the middle doing the main directing and four at every corner making sure the scooters don't go out of turn. Some take their job very seriously and will un relentlessly blow their whistles until your scooter wheel is indeed behind the white waiting line. When the light turns green it is as if we are at the starting line, the police officer waves his little red flag and the mopeds go screeching around around him. I can almost imagine the scooters in the front revving their engines as they wait...or are they? All that's left is for the police officer to wear a cute little checkered number and this daily street racing scenario would be complete.

All in all and to say the least...I now know why we had a 30 minute lecture just on traffic safety during our pre departure meeting.

Posted by Kaceyroo 05:32 Archived in China Comments (1)

Panties

rain 43 °F

Today's blog is about panties. And after telling this story to my mom she insisted that I blog about this. Although this was after she told me a lot of my former teachers ( my mom works at my high school and therefore is friends with my elementary through high school teachers) started reading my blog as well. So what I'm trying to say is, I really didn want to write this and I'm glad I can hide my blushing behind the Internet.

So I guess I'll start with my current laundry situation. I have mentioned that my host family is overly attentive. I can't touch a dish, I can't make my own bed, and so there is no way I am allowed to do my laundry. Every morning my 爷爷 (....you all reviewed your 生词 so of course you know what this means! Right??) asks me if I have dirty clothes. Of course I do but I limit it to one or two days a week. Even back at home I don't do laundry as often as they are offering to do mine!

But like clockwork every morning my 爷爷 says if you have dirty clothes put them here (points at the enormous ping ping table in the living room) and charades out washing clothes and hanging them out the window. I feel bad, he is the cutest old man, but I can't understand a flipping word he says. The 南京话 ( directly translated to Nanjing words) is the local dialect, and it pretty much makes every h disappear. I was being offered "Tsaa" for the first week I was here. What the hell is Tsaa...? Then one day it dawned on me, its Cha, also known as tea. And my 爷爷 only speaks 南京话 rather then just, straight up mandarin: 普通话 (the common words). My 奶奶 has taken it upon herself to force 南京话 upon me and will, when asked what certain things are called, answer with their 南京 name, and I have to say "普通话奶奶!" Mandarin Grandma! She thinks it's a riot and keeps saying "but you want to be a local!!" This is true, I would love to leave with an accent and I think wether I like it or not I will have one by June.
But we once again have gotten way off track, this blog isn't about tea or 南京话, it's about panties. ( sorry dad)

So...now that we have confirmed the fact that there is no way I will be doing my own laundry I am stuck with the problem of washing my unders. Before we left for our families we all received an orientation and talked about this specific issue for a good bit of time. It is culturally very inappropriate to wash your unders with the families load of laundry. Your under things are private and they don't need to be washed together, either that or it is see as unclean. I actually don't know. But the girls on the program were all told to hand wash their undies and hang them in our room to dry. Easy cheesy, I had to do this when I lived in Greece. So we all got into our patterns: take a shower wash your undies from the day, and by the time you have done this every day for a few days your first pair is dry. OH! I forgot to mention. Dryers don't exist in China, and if there is a dryer it is very very rare. Apartments are built with a specific area to hang your clothes to dry. * Very important detail. *
So it became my daily ritual, and it was working. I was hanging mine inside my closet as my 爷爷 cleaned my room every morning and that could get awkward.

But!! No more awkward then the conversation I just had with my 奶奶.
She comes into my room with my laundry for the day, laundry I didn't actually give them, just something I had draped on my chair. And she shuts my door ( red flag!) and sits down in the chair next to my desk.
You know when your mom is about to have one of "those" talks with you? Your palms get sweaty and you can feel yourself panicking, and you're trapped in this horribly awkward conversation? Well It was happening. I knew what this conversation was going to be about.....

.......Panties.

It started something like this (and I'll save you from the Chinese dialogue):
G: KaiXi here is your laundry from today
Me: Thank you grandma!
G: Is there anything else you need washed?
Me: Nope I think that is all
She awkwardly paused and the asked: why don't you change your under things?
The only problem was the only words I knew out of that sentence was: you, don't, change. Oh noooooooo, she's gonna ask about my undies isn't she??? I have been dreading this conversation. After we used the oh so helpful ipad I eventually got her whole sentence translated. Yup I was right. Here we go...
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I politely informed my grandma that I do indeed change my unders and that I prefer to wash them myself. At that point she looks around my room and says but then they're wet and wanted to know where I dry them. I told her that I dry them in my cupboard. Oh that was not gonna fly. 不好不好. Not good not good. You need to hang them outside she said. They won't dry in your room. I told her that they do indeed dry and that it is really fine. She said but it is not clean....now I was a little confused. As China is not known for its clean air. She said something I didn't catch at all and we turned again to the ipad. We were translating word by word and it turned out that
The...sun....is...good? Wait no not good....sterilizing!

The sun will sterilize my undies.

Ahhhh this is a cultural thing that goes way beyond our years, I understand it now. It's not a hostess and guest scenario so much as a "I was raised believing this and am genuinely concerned for your safety." I tried to explain that I have done this numerous times in America and that it isn't dangerous, my clothes are just as clean. Yet she is completely not convinced.
I will hang them up in the window for you she said. In which I declined. I don't mind drying them in my window then it's more convenient. Oh that was not gonna fool my granny, she is a smart lady. No reason to be embarrassed she said. I will wash them not 爷爷. You are my daughter now too, no need to be embarrassed. My window faces east, the sun is stronger. And with that our conversation was over.
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Posted by Kaceyroo 07:41 Archived in China Comments (3)

Extreme Shish-kabobs

overcast 50 °F

My pianist is back, although tonight I have so much homework I am drowning her out with Macklemore and Robert DeLong so i can power through. I got into a really wacky sleep pattern on the weekend. awake for 12 hours sleep for 12. 10am-10pm. oh so nice, but oh so not helpful when 9:30 rolls around Monday night and I am dragging my feet. But today I got my official student ID!! I am now a proven Nanjing University student! check it!
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I can only listen to a few of Macklemore's songs without feeling incredibly homesick. For those of you that don't know, Macklemore is a rapper who was born and raised in Seattle, other then my new friend Lev (a UPS student on my program) he is the closest thing to Seattle i can get. One song, cowboy boots is all about capital hill and describes in fine detail pretty much every summer I have had in Seattle so far. *Minus the part about doing lines of cocaine*

Don't get me wrong I am not in the slightest sad or homesick...yet. Although there are moments where I think goddammitt I just want to eat with a fork, and its almost as if my grandma reads my mind and hands me a spoon to eat whatever is troubling me. Close enough. I actually don't think they own a fork.
This weekend was fun and productive. Saturday I woke up at...10am lol. And immediately we went out for wonton soup. I had mentioned that I liked wonton soup and went out with my friends the previous night to buy some. Big mistake. I have had it almost every day now. Not that I don't love wontons, but I feel bad that they go out of their way to buy me things that I like. And not even things that I am dying to have. BUT for instance I keep hinting at how much I like peanut butter, although it has yet to appear. however then if I go to the American import store and buy a jar of jiffy they will feel like they need to keep buying it for me, and thats expensive. It's a tough place to be in. I think I might just buy a jar and keep it in the cupboard at school. My own secret stash...mwaha. Although the rice dumpling things they give me for breakfast are filled with sweet sesame goo and it resembles peanut butter enough to satisfy me.

First of all I would like to discuss my most recent crisis. I had myself CONVINCED I had lice. Ever since I got my hair cut my head has had strange bumps on it and has been itchy. Not incredibly uncontrollably itchy but that constant burning uncomfortable feeling. If you know me, you know how terrified I am of getting lice. First of all I hate bugs. Bugs I can see are fine, I smash 'em they're gone. Lice and bed bugs are a different issue. So this entire weekend I spent hours combing through my hair, checking my scalp in the mirror and having mini anxiety attacks over the idea of possibly having to shave my head. Make it to Monday I kept telling myself. I will have one of the girls in my class check my hair and put my mind at ease. First thing this morning when I showed up to class the girl sitting behind me says "god my head is so itchy!" I think I scared her with how enthusiastic I was she too had an itchy head. We all checked our scalps and it turns out, China's water plus shampoo, plus very hot water plus the bad air in general destroys not only your skin ( cracking and peeling hands) but your scalp as well. We are all suffering from insanely bad dandruff and the majority of the time we all sit on our hands to stop from scratching the hell out of our scalps. As if the air didn't make your skin breakout uncontrollably and make you want to wash your face 3 times a day now we have an itchy head. Lol oh the unforeseeable problems we have run into.

On Saturday I got to Skype my wonderful friend and roommate. It was nice to see her and we got to chat for a long time. It's nice to know everyone at home is doing good. Then halfway through our chat my grandma walked in and said something very fast, all I heard was let's go. Ok sure ill go.
Where are we going?
"Slfrsisgrowtn" is all I heard.
Where?
"Adfanlda...adfonsdlg....leavnaofa....take bus"
Eh..ok! So I gladly followed my gran down our five flights of stairs and waited in the scalding hot weather. It was pushing 80 and I was nearly dying of heat stroke. In China you change your clothes based on the lunar calendar, not.the.weather. So although it was a very very hot sunny day every person was wearing big down and wool jackets. Riding bicycles...riding busses, sweat pouring down their faces. For Pete's sake!! Take off a layer or two! I feel the worst for the babies. Wrapped in down with only their cute pudgy faces peeking through. Their faces beet red. Also, the world is the babies bathroom. Here in China babies wear slit pants, not diapers, so if a baby needs to go baby goes. Nobody puts baby in the corner :b

Anywayyy
It turns out that we were going to Nanjing's biggest lake. It also turns out I had already been there and will be going there again this weekend on my field trip! No problems, it is a huge lake and there is no way I could see it all. Plus the plum blossoms are blooming so it will be very beautiful. On the topic of plum blossoms.... My aunty took me to a park near our house and showed me how the plum trees were about to bloom. She was explaining to me that the 李花 (plum blossoms) are very pretty. I replied with "在中国你常常吃李花?在美国我喜欢吃李花"In china do you often eat plum blossoms? In the US I really like eating plum blossoms. Yea didn't realize I was saying plum blossoms. Turns out later the word for plum is 李子. Oops. Now they think I eat flowers. Now I'm the crazy flower eating exchange student.

Saturday night was full of studying and reading. I don't go out much on the weekends, mostly because I like spending time with my family, and I like to get my homework done early so that I can sleep more during the week. Saturday night however, my aunty took me to the yeshi (night market). I will admit the whole idea of going to a night market in China sounds a little sketchy. All I am imagining is a dark alley with illegal goods, monkeys in cages and exotic products. Nope...haha more just like a county fair at night. But every night. Tents set up with extension cords and tents of clothes, hairbows galore and shoes. Oh my Lordy the shoes. Thank god they don't carry my size here in China or I would have a serious problem. I broke down and bought some very girl floral bows for ¥2. Letsss seeee that is $0.32. Ha! I am coming home with suitcases of bows. After shopping for a about a half hour my aunty bought me some candy coated strawberries on a stick. By this point I was a little tired of fruit on sticks. Earlier at the lake I told my gran that I like the candy coated apples so when she saw a seller she waved him down. Of course she couldn't buy the smallest one, she bought the biggest one. I counted there were over 45 small apple things, and it was taller then her. As if I didn't stand out enough I know have a 5ft long candy coated stick. Me and my stick bobbed and weaved through the sea of people and then the challenge came. Crowding onto a bus with way too many people, with this stick, wait no...spear. The old man next to me pointed at the pointy end of it and pointed to his eyes and just muttered bu hao, not good. I got it I got it, no one will lose an eye on this bus, now if only I knew how to say that in Chinese....? Besides the fact that the candy coated things were touching people's clothes, were on the dirty bus and I was worried about what eating 45 apples could do to my digestive system I offered half to MaRi who gladly excepted it when we walked in the front door. We gathered around the small trash can and made a mess on the living room floor with candy coating and spitting seeds into the trash. Don't worry we spent up after ourselves and still had room for snails and peas for dinner. But this was a complete side story and had nothing to do with the night market...

Back on track!!
I came to the night market to buy two things. hair bows and earrings, But after seeing people try on the earrings i was having second thoughts. i compensated not buying earrings with buying a sweater. I impressed my aunty with my bargaining skills as a sweater i wanted was ¥80. But it also came with a flannel shirt! no good, not after todays weather, I asked for how much the sweater was and the shop keeper told me it was ¥70, so the shirt is only ¥10? I could see the shop keeper panicking as i know she didn't want to give the shirt away for that much and I ended up walking away with the sweater for only ¥40, $6.50. After our shopping was completed we bought juiced sugar cane drinks. Sugar cane here is very popular although I see no point in it. You just chew the bark and spit it out. It is only slightly sweet and I feel it is more of a hassle then it is worth, but the juiced version was pretty good. On our walk home we dodged puke in the streets, stray dogs, numerous scooters and a few chickens, but eventually we made it home and up our pitch dark stairs.

Sunday was definitely a day full uneventful activities. I am sad to admit I didn't even go outside, I stayed inside and studied, read and cleaned my room. Some times you just need a day like that.

Today is Monday night and I have been putting off my homework now writing my blog...ah poo. My little sister just knocked on my door and said "KaiXi (kai shee) you want to drink coffee? Is your homework done?" Nope not quite done MaRi, yours? "Nope! I don't want to sleep tonight" she says as she dumped two packets of coffee in her cup, we have gone through an entire box of coffee in one week. We parted ways in the kitchen, I shouted out a 加油 (good luck) MaRi! You too, we both need to finish our homework she shouted back.

This is a normal occurrence. We are what my mom likes to call ships passing in the night, we hardly see each other, she does her homework in her room me in mine. Although I love how responsible children are here. She is thirteen and goes to school from 7-5:30 and them spends until 11 or 12 doing homework. Actually let me rephrase that. I feel sad how much homework and school work she does. The other day my aunty and uncle showed me her math homework. I can't even do it, she is doing senior level if not college level calculus...goodness gracious this child is a genius.

Finally! Sorry this blog is so long, it was just supposed to be a short one about my weekend but there is so much I want to say it is hard to writ only a little bit. Also, I just got done skypeing my mom. She says lots of people are reading my blog now, this I didn't know. I thought all the statistics about the views I get we're just people clicking through...who knows it could be :) however, if there is anything that anyone is particularly curious about knowing, for example what I am exactly eating for dinner every night, what a day to day bus ride looks like or a manual on how to use a pit toilet without ruining your shoes. ASK ME! Some things have become so normal to me now that I forget to add them in. Plus I have been lacking on photos lately. I promise no more photo less blogs I know those are so 没有意思! (this one you have to look up on your own) we are going to learn Chinese together I've decided.
Peace out guyssss
Actually one last thing, I taught my gran my English name tonight, and told her my nickname back home is Roo. I told her she can call me Roo,I secretly hope she does, then China will really feel like home :)

Posted by Kaceyroo 08:19 Archived in China Comments (0)

Despite what you've heard, thin walls are a good thing

sunny 80 °F

I'm writing this while laying in my bed late Friday night. Or is it considered early? Ok it's like 10:30, but I'm exhausted like usual and don't have money or energy to go out to the bars. Which results in my current location. As the weather warms up I become more and more thankful for this drafty house, especially today as it was mid 80's and I was unprepared with a hoody and long jeans. My window is wide open and the sounds from the street now sound familiar. The constant honking isn't obvious and the yelling seems to be non existent. To be honest the only sound that irritates the hell out of me is my neighbors chickens, or maybe it's the pigeons outside my window in the morning. But they coo and cluck like there's no tommorrow and it drives me insane. But thankfully it's night now and they are sleeping, however my upstairs neighbor is not. Which brings me to the strang title of today's blog. I live below Mozart. No lie. Whoever lives above me is some sort of famous pianist because it is the most beautiful well played music that I have heard through an apartment wall yet. I have heard it occasionally in the hallway but right now with the warm weather and the breeze from outside and the kids I hear playing in the street, its makes you feel...cultured? I can't really explain it other then an "I'm living in China moment." I have had more this week then I've had all together. I think it is a mixture of finally being settled into my home. I will now go through these epiphany moments that I have had throughout the week.
Lets see...
Last weekend I got to meet my little sisters cousin, and the first thing she said to me was " do you like Justin Bieber?? I think he's so handsome" eew barf. That's ok they are 13, and then I realized...Beliebers have no international boundaries. We continued to talk about t swift, and Selena Gomez. The look of confusion when I mentioned nysync and new kids on the block made these conversations all worth it.
This week itself was busy, very very busy. Lucky for me I felt inspired enough to do all my class readings for the week on Sunday so my life was a little easier but it doesn't change the fact I had two presentations and two tests to take. All on the same day....? Oh and a paper due. Poop. Oh Waiiiit. I signed up for an intensive language program, so no complaints are coming from me, it's called intensive for a reason.
On Sunday my family took me out for "American food" aka we went to Pizza Hut. Wow. I have only been in one Pizza Hut in the states a long time ago but I don't think it was anything quite like this. There was a doorman, and a hostess, and a 20min wait for a table. This place was straight up Olive Garden status. But oh goodness was it good to eat pizza, although my gluten allergy was not to happy with me later, sometimes you just have to have some pizza.
On Monday I got to go to my first painting class. I was very very excited and after an hour of the history of plum blossoms and a lesson on how the branches can't cross in certain ways and how yourflowers can only have so many petals... We got to paint! Oh boy it was fun! I'll show you my first painting so that by the end of this semester we can have a little comparison-off. :) image

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After our late seminar class on Monday we went out for pizza again. Now my gluten allergy is in full rage mode. Oops. No.more.pizza. It was really late by the time we were finished eating. My bus had stopped running and I had mentioned to a classmate that I was going to take a cab home in which he replied..."I'll just give you a ride home!" Huh? None of us have cars.... Then it dawned on me, he was talking about his bike. Well we tried and it more or less failed, but riding side saddle on the back of a rickety bike down a crowded cobblestone street in China, well not many can say they've done that, even if it only was for one block.
Tuesday: classes were the same and the most exciting thing that happened was I talked a bunch in my culture class because we were discussing very basic Chinese history, and well....that is sort of my area of expertise. I was thaat kid. Whatever at least I got participation points for the day, which make up about 20% of your grade. So far though I am not feeling this class. I don't know if it is because I have been spoiled at UW with very difficult and stimulating classes or what, but the assignments and class discussions are incredibly micromanaged and very easy.
Wednesday: we had a 听写 (ting xie) which directly means listen write. Aka a dictation quiz. I hadn't studied as well as I should've for it and went in not feeling that confident, but thankfully she picked the words I knew and I would be surprised if I didn't get a 100 on it. This was for our speaking class that we take. Our reading class is quite a bit more difficult. I don't know if it is because our teacher is younger and less experienced or if the book is a tad too hard, but all of us are struggling. I'm glad it's not just me....my teachers are all sweet though and you can tell are invested in teaching us. They hardly speak a word of English which brings me to my other epiphany moment. I am taking 20 hours of a class each week that is only taught in Chinese. Not only will that incredibly improve my speaking and listening capabilities but in general I am in awe of myself that I'm capable of learning in a class that is only taught in Chinese. Yes back at UW my professor mostly spoke just Chinese but if we didn't understand a concept she would take the time to explain it in English. But in China...that is not really a possibility. If no one understands we are screwed but for the most part at least one or two will get it and can explain it in English to the rest of us.
On Wednesday we also had our calligraphy class! Lets just say never will I look at a piece of calligraphy hanging on a wall and think "pfft that's easy" uh no. Actually it's not. Not only are there, like the painting class, a ridiculous amount of rules for calligraphy, you also have to sit a certain way, hold your brush a certain way and god forbid you are sitting on your left hand (which I was) because the teacher will make you a public example of what not to do. Although we were all given new calligraphy materials :) image

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I would however like to add that the calligraphy professor was so impressed with my ability to draw a line that I received a star on my paper. It's the small things in life.
Thursday was my favorite and least favorite day of the whole week. Not only did we have presentations but we also had a test (however this was pushed back to Monday because of the amount of time or presentations took up). One of my presentations was about rock climbing, the other was about my job at the tea house. The first one was the one I felt most prepared for but I will be honest, I totally bombed it. The second one went a lot better and I felt way more comfortable. Probably because I had already done one. Whatever one presentation won't fail me. I had a one and a half hour or so break for lunch before we had a other one of our wonderful culture classes. We had to discuss our ideas for our final presentations. Pretty much we are allowed to pick anything we choose about China and research it. Any sort of question that we want as long as it falls under our professors strict "guidelines and suggestions." I really really dislike this class. However I like my research topic and surprisingly so does my prof. I decided on researching disabilities in China as the word disabled can be directly translated to worthless person. Out of the two weeks I have been here I have only seen one person in a wheel chair. There are no wheelchair ramps, no way for disabled people to ride the bus, and most buildings don't have elevators. I wasn't sure how I was going to research this or where to start but after our class we had a presentation by an NGO based in Nanjing. And yes...non government organizations do exist in a communist country. You are probably just as shocked as I am. But in fact the government is starting to encourage NGOs to form as they take care of social issues that the government either doesn't have time or money for. They are more of an aid to the government then anything. The organization that spoke with us is Amity. They are a faith based organization that has started hundreds and hundreds or projects throughout china and is one of the oldest NGOs, and they want volunteers. Wow god does work in funny ways. I have always wanted to work for an NGO especially one in China and preferably a Christian one but I didn't think all of those things could be possible especially, like mentioned above, in a communist country. But here they were asking for volunteers and showing us examples of their projects. One project is called the home of hope. This is a house made specifically for children with polio in which they are given physical therapy and helped throughout their older teenage years and adult lives finding jobs and homes. And it is not far from Nanjing. Awesome :)
The second presenter was from Map magazine. It is the first bilingual magazine in Nanjing, and they are looking for part time (paid!!) editors, writers and translators, among other paid internships.I don't think my Chinese is good enough to be a translator, but I have been thinking more and more about how I wanted to be a journalist but it is a very dangerous job for an American citizen in China to be a journalist. However if it is for a small cultural magazine there should be no problem. They also mentioned that once you have a Bachelors degree you can return to become a full time editor. Hmmm...we will have to see.
After our presentations we all went out for wonton soup and then headed to karaoke with our chinese tutors and roommates. Of course we made the only Korean kid on the program sing Gangnam style. And yes it was awesome. This is us just waiting our turns to sing image

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Karaoke itself was ok, our program director was there so we couldn't get too rowdy and we were supposed to only sing Chinese songs, however the Americans kind of took over and we sang a bunch of American songs as well. I left early though and took a cab home, I was asleep before 10:30.
Friday: best.day.ever.
Our field trip today was to a migrant workers children's school. Migrant workers school

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And because it was march 8th (commonly referred to as women's day or mothers day) a lot of the students moms and grandmas were there for an assembly and were given lilies. a couple of us were lucky enough to receive a few as well. image

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The school we visited wasn't a very ordinary school. In china there is this thing called the Hukou or house registration system (now that I live in a house I have one as well). Your Hukou is your life. I would love to post this really good news article that was emailed to me that defines the education problems to T, but unfortunately I can't access it without a VPN, so in the meantime here is a Wikipedia article that helps explain the Hukou system. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hukou_system
If you have a rural Hukou rarely can you change it to an urban one, however there are many migrant workers from the countryside who find jobs in the cities. The problems are, they have a working permit which allows them to legally reside in the city along with their children. However, they still don't have an urban hukou and If your child doesn't have the correct Hukou then they can't attend certain public school with the citizens children. The school we visited was a mixture of citizen and migrant children but was focused on helping the migrant children become better educated as most of their parents aren't educated and aren't capable of helping them at home. This school is grades 1-6 and costs approximately 16,000 rmb to attend that is around $2200. Our jobs when we visited was to teach English. We taught 4th graders how to play Simon says with the hopes of teaching them body parts. image

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I'm not sure entirely how much they learned but all of us definitely had fun. There are 6 of us now that will return every Friday to teach our own hour class. And yes I will be one of the teachers :)
When we returned to school I had to complete this oh so difficult assignment for my cultural class of observing a public area for an hour and writing down every observation. *eye roll* I felt like this was a good excuse to visit a bakery that amity runs though so I was excited to go off on my own and wander through Nanjing. My program director wrote down the address on a small slip of paper, and I wandered off in the direction that I thought it was in. I asked numerous people and eventually I found my self outside a busy street. The shop keep I asked pointed me down an alley and so I gladly went. It was like a night and day difference. Small quaint walk ways with plants and tall corridor walls, there were a few stray dogs and older people play mahjong. There was also traditional Chinese music coming from over one of the walls. I had about 4 minutes of solitude before I came out on the other side of the block and found myself In pedestrian rush hour. Seriously. That is a thing in China, where there are so many people and so many scooters that you have to stand there for a good ten minutes before you can walk any where. Eventually I found the bakery and it was worth my 30 min escaped. This bakery is one of a kind. Everything baked is made by people who are mentally handicapped. The process from the bakery go to the bakers as well as the money from the huge donation box. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the enormous mural of Jesus blessing a basket of bread and fish that was being carried by a very obviously Asian person. The bread was awesome and the workers were as well. I left after my hour was up and made my way back to school. I was supposed to take a different bus home to get to my families other house, but a classmate had mentioned that it was more convenient to take a cab. No cabs would pick me up, and after 30 minutes I finally asked my host mom what to do. They said take bus 100, but I didn't know where the stop was. This had turned into an hour ordeal by this point and I was really frustrated. I sat on the corner fuming trying to figure out what to do when I used my oh so helpful observing skills that were taught to me in my culture class and saw the bus 100 drive by. So I chased it until I found its stop and of course it was going the wrong way. No problems, I crossed the street and squeezed my way onto the bus. Literally. People on the street had to help push us all in so the door could close. Yep I'm in China.
I eventually found the right stop and made it home almost 2 hours later.
Lastly I would like to just show you my room and my awesome view I have, no sarcasm intended, I really do like my view.
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Posted by Kaceyroo 02:56 Archived in China Comments (1)

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