It is just different from what YOUR used to

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

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Flag of China  , Hunan,
Monday, November 26, 2012

I really wait too long to put entries in this blog. Now I have too much to talk about and it is not fresh in my memory. So many things happen everyday and I fail to note them and then I forget! I need to aim for a blog post every two weeks. I swear everyday something hilarious happens....I try to keep stressful and frustrating situations humorous. It is one of the only ways to get through them here in China. I am certainly an outsider and what is strange to me is not strange to locals.....but because I am obviously out of place and this is my first time anywhere out of America almost everything is strange. I have to tell my self everyday "it is not strange or weird,it is just different than what your used to". Every culture is different, and I have so much more of an appreciation for those that come to America and have to relearn how to live their lives in a whole new society, with new norms and expectations. Trust me it is not easy.

 Let's start off with teaching. Some wonderful events have happened with my school that have been a blast. Sports day at my school is a huge deal.  On sports day the students(grouped by their class number and grade) military march around the Olympic sized track where they end up in front of school officials who observe the show/dance/performance that each have prepared. They wear costumes, they perform choreographed dances, they was a great production. Lexi and I were asked to help a couple Junior 2 classes choreograph a dance to Gangnam style for Sports day.     
(to those of you who are out of the generational loop, Gangnam style is a ridiculously popular song/dance that is so fun. Watch:

  In honor of the Chanjun school Sports ceremony the words "Gangnam style" in the song were changed to "Chanjun Style". Lexi, being the great dancer that she is, gladly accepted this challenge and in 4 days taught the students a super fun dance, of which they performed flawlessly on sports day in front of roughly 4000 students! I, being the terribly awkward dancer that I am, was put in charge of getting the non-dance-crew students to clap along with "Chanjun Style"...(you can't really screw up clapping!).  On top of this we were given outfits to wear with our little dance crew.....Lets just say Lexi and I looked pretty fly.We received much praise for our efforts, the dean and the head of the school were quite pleased with the quality of our dance. (for about 2 weeks after the performance students would come up to us at school and yell "CHANGJUN STYLE!!" and do the dance). 
 Sports day is a wonderfully joyous tradition, I rated this day one of the top 5 best days of my life. I got to hang out with all my students (approx. 750)all at once in the bleachers, all of which were giddy to be out of class for a day, they cheered and clapped and yelled my name from afar just because I showed up. We laughed, played, sang songs, took pictures and the day was topped off with me rooting on my classes at the baton races. I loved every moment of it. They continued through the weekend with various sports competitions such as badminton, track and field....but I took advantage of my free Friday (due to sports weekend) and went on a little trip to Dehang (I will explain later)
Teaching I know in general is difficult. But teaching in a foreign country is a "whole nother level". Imagine teaching a class of 60 students, most of which don't understand anything you are saying, and who know you don't understand anything they are saying..which leads to students acting up in class....and when you try to discipline them it really doesn't work because well, they barely speak English and I barely speak Chinese.  On top of this I only see each of my 13 classes once per week for 40min. This is so little time to instill anything into my students. Coming up with memorable lesson plans that cater to various (and very limited) English levels and keep kids from misbehaving, has been one of the more challenging obstacles in my life. Even so, I still enjoy teaching and the kids who are really excited to have me as a teacher make this whole experience worth it. I am showered with compliments and little gifts every week, they feed me little treats (literally one girl shoved a peeled tangerine in my mouth the other day) and everyday there are students who just make my day.
Funny things my students say: "Ms. April, do you like strong boys? Do you like muscle boys?"
"Do you have a husband or boyfriend?" "Can I be your boyfriend?" "Ms. April you don't looks so good today" "Ms. April, can I kiss you?" "You are wonderful!" "Your hair is like golden!"
During my lesson on thanksgiving, I asked my students to tell the class what they are thankful for here are some of the replies:
"Human DNA, Prometheus, Jesus, and The Big Bang"
"I am thankful for your kiss!" -this was said to me, ugh
"Gangnam Style"
"CCTV" -the Chinese TV network
"I am thankful for Ms. April!" - awwwwwww.....little brown nosers =) I love it
I took my first trip out of Changsha in October, with Lexi. We went to a beautiful minority village in the town of Dehang,Hunan, China, home to the Miao people and the tallest waterfall in China (apparently). Well the trip started and ended kinda bad, Lexi got really bad food poisoning on the train ride there (we took and overnight sleeper train, around 8 hours of travel one way) Sleeping on the train was pretty crappy and once we got to the connecting town to Dehang (Jishou) I was basically on my own trying to figure out how to take a bus from Jishou to Dehang, and buy our return tickets to Changsha...remember, I barely speak Chinese. Ugh was that stressful. I eventually figured it out and we hopped on a little bus to Dehang ( it is a one lane road to Dehang through mountainous terrain....the bus driver had no mercy, yikes!) Dehang is gorgeous, as you can see in my pictures,  the village is set along a river and is composed of traditional Chinese wooden structures. It is nestled between some very interesting and beautiful mountain formations (like nothing I have ever seen in the US). There are a few hikes you can go on, two of which lead to some very beautiful waterfalls. One waterfall hike is a little intense, you "hike" up a stone paved path that literally follows the waterfall up a is a bit dangerous and it's complete with giant yellow and green spiders and fuzzy neon green caterpillars. The other water fall hike we did was the "tallest waterfall in China" hike. It was stunning and you could hike behind the waterfall ( Very wet! Thank goodness for my Patagonia gear, kept me quite dry and warm! I'll be waiting for my check in the mail for this plug, Patagonia). Absolutely gorgeous. I have never seen terrain like this, it was so beautiful that I could never explain it well enough nor take a picture that would do it justice. This is my first time in another part of the world, and let me tell you, being able to see the beautiful things this world has to offer......well you just gotta see them for yourselves people. You are really cheating yourself if you don't try.
I ended up getting food poisoning as well the last day, needless to say the train ride home was miserable (even with our upgrade to a private sleeper) but Lexi and I have a great memory to share and I am so glad I went!
Various events have been keeping my free time filled; Halloween, movie nights, Beibei and Steve, Thanksgiving, English corners, bowling. 
Halloween in China, doesn't really exist (at least not in Changsha) but the foreigners here make a big effort to celebrate it. Lexi and I dressed up as Lady Gaga (me) and Katy Perry (Lexi) in honor of the Pop star obsession in China. We went to a couple Halloween parties, one of which was at one of our favorite bars, Mr. Beer, where they have a great live cover band. If Chinese people already stare and think it is is very strange to see a foreigner in Changsha, try dressing up like Pop stars. Lexi and I could barely make it 10 feet towards our destination with out being stopped for pictures. You would have thought we were the real pop stars! It is a strange experience to be sought after for being something that you just are. I am merely a person, I am not famous, I am not anything out of the America.  In China I am a rare beauty, I have blonde hair and blue eyes, very white skin, a larger nose, long eyelashes, all in a sea of black hair and brown eyes. ....sometimes I see people gaping open mouthed at me ( this is without the Lady Gaga costume) and everyone stares and whispers to their counterparts about me. Hypothetically I could be the shittiest person(luckily I am not!) and many Chinese people would still want their picture taken with me. I have had girls tell me my skin is so beautiful because it is so white (grrr! I wish I was tan!), I have had girls touch my hair with out eyelashes too!!! (They ask me if my eyelashes are real), I had a girl tell me that she wished she had my nose ( I do not know why you would want my nose, blah!). Ultimately what is interesting is that the most common thing they tell me is that I am beautiful...and this is merely for aesthetic reasons...though I am flattered and graciously accept these compliments, it is unfortunate that the features they think are beautiful is the opposite of what they have and are in no way affiliated with inner beauty. There is definitely a tinge of western culture/beauty envy here. Moreover, I can't believe all the absolutely beautiful people I see here....sure i have had seen many Asian people and had many Asian friends, but oh my does this race have quite a few gorgeous people! It is possible that I envy these girls who envy me! But hey, we all want what we don't have.

    Thanksgiving has come and past and this was my first thanksgiving away from my family.I felt a bit emotional and home sick but luckily I have many people here who are going through same thing. My World Teach colleagues and I spent Thanksgiving together at the Sheraton, one of the nicest hotels in Changsha, where we ate a delicious American-Chinese fusion buffet with endless wine and a smorgasbord of the cutest desserts you have ever seen.  I was certainly thankful for the American food and the good wine (these I have not had in 4 months!) along with the great company. Thanksgiving is always a time to reflect on things we are thankful for. I have more things to be thankful for than I can even recollect. For starters and most importantly, I am alive, I have a wonderful family, wonderful friends old and new, and I am having the experience of a lifetime. Sometimes I can believe my life is real.


Things I miss..... but there are things that fill the void 
~Blue sky and sunny days(far and few between).....there is a wonderful night life it almost           endless (until the sun comes up)
~The ocean.....beautiful pagodas surrounded by intricate ponds filled with lotus flowers and the     Xiangjiang river
~Cheese.....Tofu so delicate it melts in your mouth
~Pets,particularly Boo Thang....there is a particularly adorable Golden Retriever puppy, who         loves me so much he pees every time he sees me, at my favorite milktea place near school.
~Coffee....MILK TEA!!!!! I am addicted, everyone is worried.
~Forks and Knives......I have probably used these only 2 or three times in 4 months, but I am getting damn good at using chopsticks!
~ Micro-brewed beer (Particularly SCMB porter) or any beer from america for that                    ,some friends of mine in Changsha have started a business importing        beer and it can be delivered right to your door!! (Duvel, La Chouffe, Delirium, Guinness,              Leifmans and more!)
~TRADER JOES......Metro, it is a bit of a trek but totally worth it for the cheese and the boos.     They have a wonderful selection of foreign goods
~Farmer's markets (Santa Cruz Free Farmers)......around the corner from where I live there are some cute toothless old ladies that sell fresh produce sprawled about sheets on the ground( I assume they grew themselves). They chatter and belly laugh about the vegetable choices I make (particularly about the small amounts that I am purchasing.....they even give me free cilantro and ginger sometimes because i buy only one tiny bushel, it is not even worth weighing out) They try very hard to talk to me and due to the very thick dialect and my lack of Chinese speaking skills we mostly just end up doing some sign language, some giggling and a lot of saying "Ok Ok Ok". Ok is quite international.
~Family.....Nothing really replaces this
~All of my friends.I have really been missing Ankush lately, it is a crazy feeling going from spending everyday with someone to chatting on skype every now and then.........Nothing replaces any of you! I miss my friends very much ......but i have also made some great new friends!!!! There are some very nice people in Changsha ( Chinese and foreign!) I am particularly thankful for Lexi ( we are like sisters) and Beibei and Steve (the most wonderful and kind hearted people in Changsha). Beibei and Steve (Beibei, a Changsha native and Steve who has lived in China for 7 years)sadly will make the move to America next month for good. I must soak up as much of their friendship and China wisdom as possible!
~Rich velvety super dark chocolate (Chocolate in china is a nasty-waxy-mess).....Nothing has replaced this yet >:( 
~Having a kitchen....ugh don't even get me started.

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joan on

Wow, the wonders of traveling and learning new cultures. I do envy you alot!! Your pictures are wonderful,and Dehang is beautiful. I am sure China will always remember you as Lady Gaga, until the real one comes along. (duets?)
Keep working hard and having fun, April, this is your first experience of a life time.

Grandpa on

OK, so how do you manage to teach? I'm really curious to know the methods you use, and the results, whatever they may be.

On a further note , we always knew you were beautiful, but this adoration may be a little extreme! Love you!

mom on

I know that you are that pretty. now more world sees it too!
your excursions are fabulous!
we love and miss alot!!
mom,greg & joAnna

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