Saturday, May 23, 2009

this is my story of the week.

last wednesday, i went to this beautiful park. honestly, it was so quiet and well manicured that it felt like maybe i wasn't in xining for the afternoon. so lovely. i spent maybe two hours sitting on a pier in the (eighty degree) sun reading a book and eating bread. after this, feeling incredibly relaxed and sunned, i went to this market called ximen to meet up with sara and some visiting couchsurfers. i had been wearing trousers all day, and was really quite warm, so i decided to go look for a skirt to buy and change into, just to cool off. i left sara and the surfers checking out tibetan trinkets and went to another aisle that sells clothing to rummage through the racks. while i was in one store, my friend called me, so i talked to him for a while, then put my phone in the pocket of my trousers and moved on to the next shop. while there, i was distracted, looking around at the clothes, still kind of sun-struck from being out in the heat all day, and i felt something slip out of my pocket. i looked down, and my cellphone wasn't there anymore! at first, i thought that maybe i had put the phone into my purse and was just being crazy, but really, i KNEW that it had been in my pocket. so i started looking around, mumbling "my phone, where is it?" in chinese, and hoping someone would come to my rescue. while i was looking around, i saw this man near the door taking a quick look at something in his hand, and i saw in a flash that it was the same color as my phone! so i went over to him (it was a matter of a step or two) and said "you have my phone, give it to me", at which he stepped out of the shop, put his hand into his pocket, pulled out his cellphone (this ugly pink thing that was probably also stolen) and said "no, i don't have your phone, i have this phone". then, i noticed that there was a man directly behind him, and it just seemed like they were standing too close for it to be coincidence... and i realized that he must have handed off my phone! i was SO SO SO MAD! so i grabbed both of the men by the arms and said something in chinese that was supposed to be "you stole my phone! give it back!" but maybe was too saturated with angry and frustrated swearing for it to be understood. but they KNEW what i was saying, and they both were shaking their heads saying "no, we didn't steal your phone" "no no no" sort of stuff, and by this point i was just livid. they must have been really freaked out, because i just started hitting them (not hard, just like, frustrated) and shaking their arms and pushing them and repeating "you stole my phone" over and over like a crazy person. i looked at the shop keeper was said "they stole my phone!" but she didn't really do anything, so i just started saying really really loud "they stole my phone! they stole my phone!", and we were in the middle of this crowded market, and i'm a white girl holding onto these two tall dudes shouting at them and they were like "fine, here!" (and they were TOTALLY PISSED at me!) and gave me my phone back! yay! . then they both kind of disappeared, to me swearing at them (in english, but they still totally knew what i meant), wishing i knew how to contact the police and them swearing at me (because they should be able to steal my phone?) and i just booked and went and found sara- i was totally shaking and freaked out adrenaline wise- those kind of situations are really weird, you know, because the whole time you're thinking about how you should have done something differently (like i wish i had been able to be more badass, and like have hit them hard or put them up against a wall or something) but in reality, you probably did just what was right in the situation. because i got my phone back and i don't have to deal with the hassle of getting a new one or anything... but really- i wish i could have been more intimidating. i was probably plenty intimidating to them though, because i guess a lot of people won't even do anything if their stuff gets stolen. i don't know if i usually would, either, especially if i was a smaller chinese girl. the girls at work have been telling me that i was really "brave", because even if they had seen someone do that, they would have just let it go- because they would be afraid of getting hurt. and someone else told me that probably the shopkeeper didn't step in because she might have been afraid of them coming back to hurt her store if they got in trouble. so i guess me standing up to them and grabbing them was probably totally frightening to the guys (especially because i'm a foreigner, who people say are "easy targets")... so i'm happy. and really pumped up and aggressive lately. it's weird to feel like this. but i'm also being really careful of my things from now on.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

but amy teacher, we have PANDAS!

we were discussing dolphins the other day in class, and i told my students about how once in australia, a woman loved a dolphin so much that they were married. and i was talking about how i miss the ocean (being a teacher means you have a captive audience/counselor, right?) and whales (because they said that whales and dolphins are similar) and that living so far from the sea is difficult for me, when five of them immediately raised their hands and shouted "but amy teacher! we have pandas!" like they would save my soul and my ocean desires. so i decided to check out the pandas- in chengdu! <> apologies for the haphazard photos- i am working through proxy now, and it only works in html, which i have NO POWER over. they are from PANDA BASE, one of the leading panda research facilities in the world. china loves their pandas. and so do i.
 Hello PANDA PARK (otherwise known as pandabase)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

spring oh nine, oh so fine!

 guess who's happy that spring is making her presence known... ME!
i think i've always believed that you can encourage the weather by what clothes you wear- this is my week of experimenting. also my new favorite thing is taking a shower and then having a motorcycle taxi drive me across town so that my hair dries out (that way i can go to my friend's house and get a hairdry!) because it is not so chilly that i will get sick. 
i am back from a wonderful trip (more on that is soon to come),  and back to teaching weekends only. i love love love my job.  i am teaching older kids now, which is encouraging and fun, and also i have so much more time now to do things i like : reading, writing, cooking, eating, sleeping, making things, playing with friends, making fun events. i am loving my life right now. especially because the sun is out and warming up our frozen streets (and hearts?). 
my friend sara and her host family just moved WAAAAAY out of town to this lovely house where there's no internet and lots of windows, and i am thinking that i will be spending some of my weeks out there so that i can try to write and read more. it will be like mini sabbaticals- i'm excited. 
i've been writing more, and i have a few really good 'zine ideas (i think)  that i am getting started on these next few weeks- also we made a community 'zine last month, and i'm pretty excited about it. 
my next post will be about the trip i took with casey and jessie- and it will hopefully contain some photos to satisfy your eyes. i hope you all are getting some sunshine and cleaning off the bbq's. happy happy spring coming time! i love you. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

blogger is a terrible thing sometimes and won't let me do nice formatting. like line breaks.

i've spent the past week or so in hunan province, china. it is lovely and beautiful and green and just foggy enough to be romantic without being a hindrance. casey, jessie and i checked out zhangjiajie and the wulingyuan scenic/historic area (which is a world heritage site) yesterday and the day before. it was gorgeous. absolutely. from the video that we watched on the bus ride into the scenic area (which was preceded by a music video- the only words i heard were "zhangjiajie", "beautiful","pretty", "mountain" and "green) we were informed that pretty much the entirety of creation conspired together from the beginning of time to create this scenic area. it has more plant species than the whole of europe. it has mountains, caves (with stalactites/stalagmites), rivers, spires, waterfalls, huge lakes... everything. it is green and supple. it is HUGE. and... it has MONKEYS! we had two separate monkey encounters. i have gained a healthy respect (and a bit of fear) for monkeys. probably all together we saw about 100 or so of the animals- babies, momma, kiddos, papas. and the big guys, the king monkeys. they were in heat, so there were red butts to be seen all over, and once we even ran away because the monkeys were really aggressively trying to free (or get at) a group of unfortunates that had been caged in the 'monkey garden'. they were really cool though, and the babies were undeniably cute. i would have tried to hold one if i weren't fully convinced that one of the adults would have torn my face off. because i want to post photos later, i will hold off on regaling you with monkey stories. and other travel stories. but i will leave you with this: currently, we are in the town of fenghuang, which means something like 'phoenix'. it is a beautiful riverside city that has a ton of old school charm and windy alleys. this morning, we hopped on a boat ride along the river- our gondolier (for lack of a better word) was this beautiful seventy year old man- total grandpa material, who has lived here his whole life. he knows the river so well, avoided the rocks to perfection- and was totally laid back. at one point he said "do you mind if i sing?" and then burst into song. he said it was a song from this area of hunan, and told me that he likes his job because it is comfortable and makes his body feel good. i love him. i loved the boat ride, and i have now decided that my career path should carry me to a fun job like this when i am seventy. tomorrow i think we head to guangxi province, fingers crossed for wonderful, warm weather! be well.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


finally, our winter intensive (5 days a week teaching) is over. we finished up last friday, and i attended the parent meetings- it was kind of fun. it's neat to see your students sitting with their parents, especially to see how much the kids look like their parents. i was really happy, because at the beginning of teaching this set of students (back in september) i was a little nervous that i would see the kids around town and not recognize them... but NOW not only do i recognize them, but i ALSO know them well enough to see how much they resemble their parents... try pretty much as soon as i finished teaching (and having an ultra life changing KTV night saying goodbye to some delightful friends who are leaving the country), i hopped on a train south... or so i thought. i caught my train with ten minutes to spare (which is pretty much a miracle for me) and made my way to my compartment. lucky for me, i somehow ended up on the train that runs from lhasa to guangzhou- which means it is a VERY nice train. i shared the compartment with a nice woman who gave me bread, a muslim woman who was very actively breastfeeding her one month old child (which i thought was a boy, but later thought was a girl... it was all very confusing), the muslim woman's younger brother, and about five men who are all coworker s that sell something like... piping? i didn't really understand everything, and we spent a lot of time making fun of my chinese- which was awesome. at one point i got the words for 'watermelon' and 'accustomed to' confused- they are 'xi gua' and 'xi guan', respectively. it seems easy to me, but they pretty much split their sides laughing at me. i'm getting really used to being a source of entertainment for people, especially because of my bumbling chinese. but i'm getting by, and the men saw me off the train to my bus, and it was very lovely and kind. and now i am in changsha. it is a different type of chinese city- it seems much more chinese than xining. there are skinned dogs hanging in the alley, next to baskets of snakes and bird cages and piles upon piles of bloody turtle shells. and it's smoggy and i bought a new umbrella to combat the rain. and it is much bigger here- they have at least 4 KFC's (that is how many i have seen so far). i will set out and do more exploring here- i'm working on buying a new camera, because mine ( i think) got stolen and it is always sad to not have photos of these things. i hope all is well. i promise that when i get back from my trip i will do a big post about chinese new year and things of that sort. hope all is well. i miss you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

i'm almost twenty three, in case you were wondering.

contrary to popular belief, working the whole monday thru friday, 9 to 5 thing does NOT make you a grown up. i thought that it would just, you know, transform me. i thought i would become the person i have always hoped lived deep inside of me (the person who was waiting for exactly the right conditions to appear). this person would be something like katie rismondo and miranda july and friendship city and the subway in hong kong and my mom and dad put together with everything good and responsible and creative in the world. 
alas, rather than being a well kempt, organized, clean sheets every week, floor swept and mopped, 1 poem a week producing, guitar learning, chinese mastering, drawing, cooking, painting, sewing, fantastic teaching, c-walking individual, i am still the same old messy, distracted, lazy me. and i justify it all like this: "amy, it is okay that you aren't studying chinese. when you study chinese, your english gets really bad, and that isn't fair to your students.", or i think things like this- "i worked really hard today. it's okay to just play on the internet. and i should read the news because it's important to know what's going on in the world. and i am allowed to space out for a while, because i've been really focused all day already."    and it is obvious that there is no such accomplished, responsible, self-maintaining person hiding deep beneath my lazy, unshowered, exterior.  i'm going to try to be okay with this, without being a complacent, dirty, lout.  if you didn't notice, this is the post where i am really into mild self deprecation and adjectives. 
maybe though, things could still change. sometimes i have little glimpses of hope. for example:  i was reading postsecret the other week, and there was this secret that said- "i would give anything to know how to draw, except practice drawing" - and i realized that this is my attitude about a lot of things. so i have begun to practice things, to try to learn the skill and the technicalities behind things, rather than just winging it and thinking "well, i'm a creative person- this should just work!". this has led to me practicing drawing and sketching most days for about an hour or so. it's fun, because the only books i can understand at the chinese book store are the 'how to draw' books. i got a few of them, and maybe by the time this year is out, i'll be able to draw as competently as any 7-11 year old in the middle kingdom. i've already added a pretty cute sofa to my sketching repertoire.
now, i will give you (organized) photos of the little trip heidi and i took last week:
 tibetan culture stuff
first, we went to our friend's village and tried to learn tibetan dancing. i think i am getting MUCH better than when i first moved to china.
after trying to dance, we decided to go on the wedding circuit- a ton of people got married in our friend's village that day, so we headed out to toast and eat to the married couples. and i got to ride a motorcycle. sidenote: i think my new dream is to come back to china with completely fluent chinese, get my chinese driving license, buy a motorcycle and go anywhere i could. there are so so many small places in between the big places, and i want to see them.
here is one of the brides. she was ultra shy, sweet and nice. and younger than me. 
beautiful scenery
these are some photos of the tibetan plateau. it's gorgeous and so open out here. this is the way we took to get to xiahe. the whole drive there was really nice and sunny- i remembered how much i like driving trips. 
 quirky china things
partway through our trip, we had to stop to get our car repaired. this is me wondering what exactly they are doing. 
i want you to notice the precision instruments they have here: small sledge thing, chisel, bigger chisel, needle nose pliers, tin snips and, if you look at the light part near his elbow, you will notice the remains of a beer can. somehow, he cut the can apart and used strips of the can to replace the bearings he pulled out of the wheel assembly. i don't really get it at all. we made it though, so it must have worked. 
this would be stick food. kebab. kao. bbq. chuan. chuar. here we have beef, mutton, potato, tofu and mushrooms wrapped in tofu skin. i can say all of these words in chinese. i love love love all foods on sticks. after some training, my stomach agrees that this is THE way to go when it comes to street food. 
really! i love it! thank you linxia. 
all of these photos are taken by heidi. sadly, i think my camera has been taken from me. 
tonight is lantern festival, the end (i think) of the chinese new year celebrations. i will go see the lanterns and the lights and the people. a while ago, i guess 5 people got trampled by the crowds, so i'm glad that i'm big and strong. 

Saturday, January 31, 2009

the only downside to listening to weird girl music is that it takes a while to hear real girls screaming outside.

 we couldn't find her once we made it down 13 floors. the three (drunk) men who were with her were there though, stumbling back inside, so i'm hoping that she's okay and safe.  i hate worrying that i could have done something more. usually at home i think i would call the police, but here i do not know the number, and i do not know how to say 'there is a girl screaming at three men around her who might be hitting her but i cannot tell'.  we all know my intense desire to be a great superhero, so who really knows what would happen if i could speak competent chinese?
the original title of this blog was going to be:
amy's first trip to the p.s.b.
and would have continued something like this:
    on the second day of a three day trip, amy and her friend heidi arrived at the town of xiahe (also known as labrang), a small town in gansu province. they took a hired car there, driven by a funny tibetan man.  while in labrang, the girls hoped to check out the monastery, the prayer path, and maybe eat a yak burger before getting a night's rest at one of the many hostels in town. the next day they planned to catch an early bus to lanzhou, the capital of gansu province. 
none of this was to occur though. five minutes after driving through a military blockade, the girls found themselves surrounded by people, all (kindly) telling them that they could not stay in town. used to crowds and false (or changeable) information, they paid their driver and made their way into a nearby hostel, where the reception woman regretfully told them that she could not house them for the night because xiahe was currently closed to weiguorens (foreigners). still feeling like there was some way they could work around this inconvenience, amy and heidi found their way back onto the street, eyes open for another hostel in which to plead their case. really- they just wanted to stay for one night. 
back on the street, a mere 10 minutes after arriving in town, the police were rolling up- two cars waiting for them.  an english speaking officer addressed them: "my dear gentle ladies, please get into the car, we would like to ask you some questions at our office". so they hopped in. really though,  who closes a county to foreigners? china. that's who. 
the p.s.b. was very nice- they just asked a few questions that the girls answered vaguely, took some information from their passports, explained that xiahe was currently closed to foreigners and that there really was no way that they could stay (even for the night) and then drove them out of town. on the way out, their english speaking officer pointed out the heavy military presence in the town (columns of soldiers marching in unison, in riot gear), but clarified that they were there just for precaution. really, everything else looked very peaceful and orderly and holiday-ish: the stores were closed for chinese new year, the children were out playing together, and monks were walking around in droves.  the girls were dropped off outside of the military-manned checkpoint and were told to wait for the next bus- it would take them to linxia. "please, come back in the summer", their officer said, "we would be glad for you to visit us". and, if they can make it, they will. 
and that was all. it was a little nerve-wracking, but there was really no way we could have known. they just closed the town at the start of chinese new year- a precaution taken because of the rioting that occurred in march in this region of china. and linxia had amazing meat sticks, so it was fine. i am looking forward to making a trip to labrang in the summer. even though i was thrown out of town, i was totally invited back. 
our three day trip went something like this:
xining to tongren- bus
tongren to our friend's village- car
back to tongren- car
tongren to xiahe- car
xiahe to linxia- bus
linxia to lanzhou- bus
lanzhou to xining- train
there will be photos later. 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

i like korean pop music now and i can't stop listening to wonder girls (nobody)

apologies are in order. i have been busy and lazy and i keep getting distracted during my computer time.  i'm officially sorry that i've been so lax on my blog posting. hopefully this will not happen many more times. 
apparently my new year resolutions were this:
-work on my posture
-realize how blessed i am
-get really good at apologizing (i'm not sure i'm actually good yet, but i've been practicing a lot)
-feel like i am unstoppable and unbreakable and do silly things
-keep realizing how young  i am 
the first one was the only one i actually thought about seriously, and the rest are just things that seem to be happening with alarming regularity. 
what are your new year resolutions?
a few of you may have heard that i went on vacation in the early part of january. sara and i had been planning to take this time for a few weeks of vacation, and  it was probably the best thing that could have happened.  all we knew was that we wanted to go somewhere warm. after doing a little bit of research, we figured the WARMEST place in china would be sanya, the southernmost tip of hainan island. it is referred to as "the hawaii of china", so we were looking forward to the beaches, the foods, and not having to wear 3 layers of clothing at all times. 
i am pleased to say that we experienced all of this and more, thanks to the fantastic people we met along the way. 
this is a quick overview:
- take a train from xining to chengdu
- hang out with cool kids in chengdu (eat the best hotpot in the world)
- take a plane from chengdu to sanya
- meet more cool kids, get a ride from them into town
- meet up with our couchsurfing host and get shown our apartment. 
- meet the turtles!
- eat seafood, barbeque food, and other delicious things (like our new favorite fruit)
- dance a lot with our new club kid friends
- make friends with musical old men- play and sing (sara is a wonderful violinist)
- happy new year with friends from the airplane- sing with new friends from the philippines 
- eat more. sightsee a little. walk around a lot. 
- sit on the beach. tan. get sunburned. swim a little. commandeer comfy beach lounges.  
- go to a fishing village. 
- get put up in a few hotels by our awesome host who is living in sanya to rescue sea turtles. 
- do some interviews for our host. 
- film a turtle video. hold a turtle on my lap. 
- catch train from sanya to guangzhou.
- hang out with our friends in guangzhou
- go to hong kong via fast train. 
- eat sushi, samosas and delicious street food.
- see some art galleries 
- walk in and out of various places with fabulous fashion (but it was all 'tai gui le' (so so expensive))
- meet a fantastic older woman who has had such a full life. 
- eat at mcdonalds
- find the arts and crafts area of town
- go to the bird and flower markets
- eat at many many pastry shops. 
- get a little homesick for xining. 
- catch a train back to guangzhou
- see our friends again
- catch an early morning flight back home to xining.
here are a few photos from the trip: 
train train train. 27 hours. 
everyone likes chengdu.
all children in chengdu are cute. and sweet. 
the turtles who stole my heart. there are four of them. guess the names. 
we got to feed them. i got pinched by a crab for the first time in my life. 
this is my dream fishing boat. 
sara loves the baby turtles. 
so do i. there were so many of them!
sanya from the deer turning back statue. 
delicious seafood dinners. every night. thank you ocean. 
the love tree. it's real.
 sitting at the beach. 
hong kong is actually called 'meat city'
this is how we knew we weren't in 'china' anymore. 
beads, bangles and glitter. and ribbon. rismondo's dream street. fabric, too. 
hey big buddha. (biggest ever sitting bronze buddha)
samosa city. chungking mansions.
modern art? thanks hong kong!
peter, you could come here, too!
we came for the sushi. honestly- we got off the train, found a sushi place, and ate there every day. 
so. that was our trip. maybe i will regale you with in-depth stories later- if you really want to hear about something, let me know. 
for now, i will be teaching monday thru friday for the entire month of february. 5 days a week is tough- especially with the baby (7-11 year olds) students, but i'm hoping that i will emerge with no wounds and amazing patience. and really smart students.