Wait.....you mean I am not special here?

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

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Where I stayed
Laoshan Hostel (The Phoenix) Shanghai
Read my review - 3/5 stars
What I did
cantina agave

Flag of China  , Shanghai,
Saturday, January 19, 2013

I AM FREEZING MY ASS OFF. Lets just say I am not used to the weather in Changsha. Currently weather.com says Changsha is 34 degrees...it has certainly been colder than that in past couple weeks.... It has even snowed!  As we all know, I am a California girl, though not a SoCal girl I still love my warm weather, sun, blue skies, ocean, and not having to wear 12 articles of clothing just to go to the store. I am  really a baby when it comes to cold weather, sure I was born in Tahoe and have visited my Dad in the winters......but to be quite frank I hate cold weather. I am grumpy and unmotivated and all I want to do is get my skinny butt into my warm bed and watch some crappy TV series on netflix (what I have been watching: Portlandia, Gossip Girl (guilty) Sex and the City, Game of Thrones...) This is a highly unproductive way to spend your time....I should be studying Chinese! It doesn't help that during this cold weather my hot water and heater both decided to stop working at the same time....I spent a good week with out a heater and roughly 2 weeks with out hot water...needless to say being cold and dirty doesn't motivate one to be a productive human being. But the moral of this is a person can live in many varying conditions. I walk down the down the street and I see people in their shops/homes with no heat, presumably no hot water unless it is boiled...and instantly I am humbled. I now realize how many luxuries I get to enjoy in America, we get everything handed to us on a silver platter, we have so many things that make life easier.
  In the last month and a half a lot has happened. First of all I have been in China for 5 months already. It is surreal. I almost half way through my year commitment. The big question now is; Do I stay another year? Lexi and i ask each other this almost everyday and every time we have a different answer. Some days I am in love with China and others I can't wait to hop on the next flight home. The truth is China is exhausting to live in for a foreigner. Constantly not being able to communicate is difficult, never knowing how to get anywhere, never knowing what the heck you are buying because you can't read the damn bottle is maddening, people staring at you 24/7 and wanting to take pictures and/or practice their English , getting taken advantage of because the assumption here is that foreigners are rich....all these things I deal with daily. I am still not sure if the challenge is worth it or not. The other issue I have been facing but haven't really mentioned are health issues. I feel it is difficult to be healthy here. The air quality is terrible, I never see the sun, there few health regulations as far food goes and people smoke cigarettes absolutely everywhere. For about 3 1/2 months I have been gradually losing my hair. I can estimate that I have lost about 40% which is quite a bit and not easy to cop with. I have been to the hospital 4 times and I have not found anything conclusive. My blood tests come back fine, I have been taking supplements...at this point I don't know what to do about it. Many exterior factors could be a cause, along with stress....so at this point I am wondering if I (and my self esteem) can handle staying another year in China. The sad part is I really do like China, and I really want to learn Chinese and ultimately I have a lot of fun here. We will see what the next 6 months have to offer me .
  What I love about China is that my life is certainly not boring. I am seeing more in one year than I have in the last 10 years. I recently went to Shanghai to say goodbye to my wonderful friends Steve and Beibei as they venture to start their new life in America.  Shanghai was wonderful.....and cold (>_<) In Shanghai I didn't even feel like I  was in China. It is a huge city and as the plane descended on our way there it looked freaky, like a scifi futuristic city with hundreds of high rises. Lexi and I flew in from Changsha but prior to our flight we of course had some complications....it would be a China travel experience with out it. We get to the airport on a Wednesday and find out we booked the wrong flight, this is always more frustrating when you don't' speak the same language as the people that are able to assist you. We ended up having to sleep at the hotel airport because it would have cost us as much time and money to get back home and return for our new flight the next morning....oh isn't everything a learning experience??Once we finally got to Shanghai we had a wonderful time, we walked through the french concession, we had drinks at a roof top bar on The Bund, We ate Mexican food (for all of you Americans be thankful for your endless amounts of Mexican food! I haven't had anything remotely close for 5 months!) we saw the Oriental Pearl, got ripped off at the fake market (but I found shoes that fit me!)and best of all we got spend Beibei and Steve's last days with them. They had a great "Going Away Day" complete manicures, a very mod Korean dinner, FABULOUS drinks at Barbarosa, and it wouldn't be a Chinese send off with out KTV at the end of the night. Many alcoholic beverages were had and many tears were shed. The funny thing about Shanghai is that it is so modern and so westernized. People speak english, there are tons of foreigners, Lexi and I got a good break from all the staring, picture taking, and english practicing. We were nothing special in Shanghai, people could care less that we were there!Though we enjoyed this break, we happily got back on a plane back to Changsha where we as we walked off the plane we heard giggles, saw people pointing in awe and were happily met by a generous Chinese friend who picked us up from the airport.
    I continue to make wonderful friends. One of which is Wuxia (Serena is her English name). She is a teacher at my school and a head teacher of one my classes. Her English is great, so we can actually converse and she happens to be a blast! She invited me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding over our new years break.  Of course I accepted! So Lexi and I hoped in a car went to her husband's hometown of Hengyang for three days where we participated in various Chinese wedding activities many of which I had never seen before. As bridesmaids Lexi and I had duties. Before the wedding we had to wait with Wuxia int he hotel room with the doors locked. We had to hide her shoes for the husband to find and when he arrived we were not allowed to let him into the room until he gave us money and answered our questions and commands (one of which was to do Gangnam Style). Once he obeyed all of our rules he was allowed to take her to the grand procession of cars and fire works and then we were off the the celebration. Hengyang has even less foreigners than Changsha so you can imagine how surprised these people were to see us at her wedding. My other duties as bridesmaid were to hand out cigarettes to people and toast with each table (this required a bit of drinking...but I didn't mind). This experience was wonderful and really gave me a deeper insight into Chinese culture, I had such a great time and I was met with the utmost hospitality by the groom's family. (the groom is a wonderful man, funny, kind hearted, speaks a tiny bit of English...by the end of the trip we named him chubby hubby and had various people calling him this). This also brought me closer to Wuxia and her new family...I feel like I have made eternal friends and a second family in China.
Even with all these new and fun experiences I have been having, I am still a teacher! For the last three weeks I have been giving all 780 of my students mini oral exams!  This has been especially fun because i get to see each student individually for about 30 seconds. I have so many kids that there are only a handful that I really get to talk to frequently, this is also because many don't speak much English. But now as of Tuesday I can officially say that I have spoken personally to everyone of them! It was great to hear them speak and remember some of the things I had taught them in class. They are all so cute and funny.I asked one kid in particular "How are you?" and he told me that he was having a bad day because he fell in the toilet (remember there are squat toilets here). We have had many other fun times with the kids too like the annual singing competition where Lexi and I had to stand on stage in crazy outfits while the kids sang Chinese songs (definitely sang some watermelons to disguise our lack of Chinese language) and we got to go on a field trip to a very ghetto theme park call Window of the World. Though it was in shambles we had the best time running around with kids and I absolutely loved having 5 or more of them hanging all over me. It was a treat to see them outside of school where they could relax, because school in China is brutal.
I am officially finished with school until Febuary 24! I am sure you are thinking "what the heck is she gonna do for 5 weeks?". Well I am heading to Cambodia! I leave on Jan. 20 with my fellow World Teacher and friend Adrian. I will having many adventures through out South East Asia for a whole month. For the first time in my life I will be backpacking (many firsts this year). I have one 40L backpack...I am not allowed to check a bag and I have a 15 pound weight limit, I will surely be packing and looking quite modest =) I also have not purchased a flight home, we have a rough idea of where we would like to go but really I am hoping to just go where the wind takes me. Ultimately if I can lay on a beach, get a massage, ride an elephant, see some temples, and most of all be warm I will be a happy camper (or backpacker I should say) It is currently 80 degrees in Cambodia.....I am so excited. I plan to update at least once while I am away.
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joan cassidy on

I certainly live vicariously through you and your adventures. Wow. Take care in Cambodia, but do get warm. Your hair has to be a combination of smog and MSG. Your pictures are great and so are your school kids. By the way I like Gangnam!!

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