My story book of life

Trip Start Aug 02, 2012
Trip End Aug 02, 2013

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Flag of China  , Hunan,
Saturday, October 6, 2012

   I can not believe it is already October.I can feel the weather changing already and I am scared for what is to come! Us California girls are not used to weather.I realize I need to update this blog a bit more, it has been almost a month! A lot has happened and time is going by quickly.
I have been in China for two months! Can you believe it?My story book of life is gaining more pages each day. This particular chapter has some fun stuff in it!
    I started teaching on Sept. 5 and so far it has been very fun! The students are very curious, inquisitive, and sweet.  They like to touch my hair, they like to ask me all kinds of personal questions, and they tell me I am beautiful everyday. What more could I ask for? That is not to say that they are always like that, they can be very naughty sometimes. I have kids that say bad English four letter words, they chatter way too much, and sometimes they will not follow my rules and directions. Ultimately they are so smart. I teach 13 classes with 60 plus students in them and they are very serious about school( though their English levels vary). My students are Junior 1 so that means they are about 12 years old. I find that enjoy teaching much more than I thought I would. It is rewarding and my students can easily put me in a good mood. They are very excited to have me as a teacher and we have a grand old time together. It is funny because when I leave my apartment I am right in the midst of school day, I have to say hello about 50 times before I even get to the gate of the school to leave.

    I am slowly turning into a Chinese girl =) I have been wearing platform shoes, getting sparkly bright colored manicures, wearing lense-less hello kitty fashion glasses, I eat street BBQ(Shao Kao) and fried rice with no unfortunate stomach issues, and up until a few days ago I had only been using chop sticks to eat meals (I ate dinner at a Chinese family's house and they pitied my chopstick skills, noticing how I struggled they brought me a fork). Though I enjoy China and have been acclimating to what Changsha has to offer, I do miss American culture quite a bit. One way Lexi and I have fed our longing for America food in particular is to visit Pizza hut!  In China, Pizza Hut is a very popular chain, but it is not your average pizza hut. It is MUCH more upscale than America's crappy excuse for pizza. You can order cocktails and fine wine and desserts. It is a sit down restaurant with chandeliers and a very modern feel. It is very strange. Needless to say Lexi and I went two times in one week ( we took each other on a date) because I got a gig modeling lingerie at a fashion show......
    Yes, I was in a fashion show. It was a "Victoria's Secret" fashion show...this in no way was truly a Victoria's Secret fashion show, because surely I would not be a candidate for lingerie modeling due to the fact that I am not endowed in the chest area. There are a lot of knock offs in China. But all aside, it was very fun! I got to walk a very legit runway in front of many people in very cute undies and bathing suits! Don't worry nothing too scandalous or revealing. I was compensated very well for my services and I got to feel like a Super Model for a few hours.

    Staying healthy in China is proving to be one of my bigger challenges. Aside from the fact that I maintain a restrictive diet that is near impossible to implement here (unless I eat at home), there are are other vices and elements that I cannot control that contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle: people smoke cigarettes everywhere, I absolutely cannot get away from them. They smoke them on the bus, in retail stores, in restaurants and anywhere else you can get away with it. It is really taking a toll on my lungs. A week or so after I got to my apartment, I got pretty sick, it was not going away so I went to the hospital( the hospital is a ridiculous experience, think universal healthcare with 1 billion people) and though I could not understand the lady prescribing me meds I am pretty positive I had bronchitis (also based on my prior experiences). Though there could be a plethora of reasons why I got sick, I am pretty sure inhaling mass amounts of second hand smoke (when I have tried so hard to avoid it in my life) was a factor. I am still, two weeks later, coughing and hacking up throat crap. It is also very polluted here, I am sure that is not a positive factor on my lungs either, China is currently in their automotive revolution so everyone has cars ( it is really interesting too because all the cars are fairly new models since they have only recently been driving). Hunan food is yummy, but mostly unhealthy by my standards. Most dishes are cooked in a lot of oil and when served they are sitting in a pool of oil. Vegetables have to be washed really well and cooked because of all the bacteria and pesticides on their skins, which in turn they lose nutrients. You eat a lot of carbs here, noodles, rice, flat breads, dumplings...carbs and cooked veggies, and oily spicy food, though delicious, are not quite as healthy as I would like it to be. Oh and lets not forget the mass amounts of MSG in everything you eat here; when I order street fried rice I watch the guy shovel multiple scoops of MSG into my tastes good but I definitely think it is having negative effects on my health. You also cannot get the healthy things we are used to in America; no salads, no whole wheat products, no low fat products,no natural products,no flax, no nutritional yeast =) it also all very processed. So I must work harder to be healthy here. I have been exercising, luckily our school has an Olympic sized track that I run on in the evening and I do my little at-home-youtube-booty exercises. I need to cook at home more definitely, but eating out is a big pass-time in China, especially if someone invites you out, it can turn into a 4 or 5 hour event of ordering more food than anyone could ever eat and quite a bit of drinking (Gan Bei!), so in order to bond with people I must comply. Laying off the milk tea, yummy pastries and fried things along with cooling it on the drinking and staying up until 5am (bars just don't close in China) might help too! Luckily I have to walk everywhere so that is good!,
    Making new friends in a new place can be a daunting process...try living somewhere where you can barely communicate! Well quite the contrary, I feel I have been meeting a lot very nice people. There is a small community of foreigners here, most of which are teachers or were previously teachers and have moved on to new job opportunities. It is nice to be around them for a few reasons; they can speak English, identify with my woes and worries and mishaps during my first two months of China living, and they can give great insight into living in China. I have been hanging out with some very great people! We go to KTV, one of my favorite things to do so far in China =) for those of you that do not know what KTV is, let me enlighten you. It is Karaoke, but you rent your own private room with a huge movie theater size tv to project your song of choice, they have cool touch screen computers to select your songs and they have more American songs than you would think. You also can have 40+ people in there if you choose, the room comes with a bunch of beers and fruit platters and a wonderfully loud sound system. Now just imagine a big group of your closest friends drunkenly dancing and screaming corny American songs, pretty sure that equals awesomeness.There always seems to be something to do with friends here, I have played games in Martyrs park  I go to group dinners quite a bit, pub crawls and most recently went to this sweet rock venue that just opened for good ol' ear splitting, bass thumping rock n' roll(the only of its kind in Changsha). One resource for fun  with friends that has been particularly helpful is a website  this website was created by a few world teach alumni guys (that still reside in Changsha) and they are constantly posting upcoming events and ideas of what to do in Changsha, it is a very helpful tool for us newbie foreigners who haven't a clue. They also happen to be some stand up guys who are very friendly, helpful, and fun entrepreneurs. If you are interested in seeing what Changsha has to offer and what I may be doing here for fun, take a look!
    I am still on a quest to make Chinese friends, while it is comforting and fun to hang out with foreigners and my own kind, I will never learn Chinese that way. All I do is speak English!!I am here to understand the culture, the language and share my own knowledge and culture. I have been making progress, I have met some very very nice Chinese natives. Teachers at my school have been a nice resource, I also recently met a university student, Bridget, and we are exchanging language lessons twice a week, she is a super sweet girl. Fortunately people are generally extremely friendly and generous so I am sure it wont be long before I have found a plethora of different people to hang out with.

Some interesting things to note:
  • I made a homemade grilled cheese yesterday..very exciting
  • I got my phone stolen at the Fashion show
  •  My computer crashed..Luckily I live next a wonderful American (Bob Jones) who is a guru, he has a physics PHD and he helps me and Lexi with all our problems! Needless to say he fixed my computer.
  • I am currently in the midst of what the Chinese call National Week. I get 8 days off! I decided to just stick around Changsha (while many others are traveling) I can save some money for our next big holiday and have some alone time to explore and get my apartment in order. Pretty much everyone travels this week and it is an absolute mess, I wish I had a picture of the train station when I went to return some tickets. Total chaos. I am finding things to do though!
  • I went camping last night at a place called Mood Island. It was me, the Changshhua boys and our friends Steve and his wife Beibei (she is so wonderful!). Moon Island is very interesting, it is just vast moguls of dirt where people ride horses, ATVs and picnic for the day. It had eerie feeling of a run-down carnival. We however camped on the river's edge. We brought a grill, a whole bunch of veggies and tofu and chicken, we made numerous attempts to get a fire would be roaring a at one point at then die out...the guys worked quite hard on it all night(everything is very damp in Changsha due to humidity). We lucked out right when we got there and rented some tents...we we originally going to sleep on tarps (I would have been freezing). We ate yummy bbq, the boys played an endless amount of songs on their guitars (and ukelele too!) and I gladly sang along(oh how I have missed jam nights). All in all a good night!
Something for me to take away from this; I am realizing what is necessary to live a good life. I am in a place where nothing is familiar, where they do things much differently than America. I am without simple things that make day to day life easier and i am realizing what I had and I how I can live without it. Things, products, gadgets...everything that we buy just to have, all just make life easier but do not give you experiences(mind you I am also living on a volunteer budget!). I think I will take the experiences over the possessions. This might be premature but don't be surprised if I stay another year in China.....

    I miss everyone from home very much! It is so nice to see you comment on my blog, I enjoy sharing these experiences with you and it makes me happy to know that you are interested in hearing about my life! I hope all is well with everyone and please keep me updated on anything new in your lives!

Now I am off to a store called Metro. It is a foreign foods Costco basically...which means THEY HAVE CHEESE!

Also this is my mailing address. You may get in contact with my Mom also about mailing things to me.

410013                                                                  Foreign Teachers Mailbox

湖南省长沙市                                                    Changjun Middle School (New Campus)

长郡中学 (新校区)                                    328 Cha Zi Shan Road, Yue Lu District

岳麓区,茶子山路328号                             Changsha, Hunan 410013

外教师信箱                                                         People's Republic of China
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Joan on

60 students in each classroom? and we are complaining because we want only 20 and then our education is still not great!
You go girl!! It sounds wonderful, everything you are doing. I think once you have an experience like this one, it changes your focus in life and lets you know you have total control over it. Keep the pictures and commentary coming, I love it.

starlagurl on

Yay, I'm moving to Changsha in September, will you still be there? How are your lungs?

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