Friday, May 27, 2011

Laoshan Mt. - A trip up a Chinese mountain with American friends

cool viewsI'm hungry, but let's not wake her up... what's next?
never mind, not that hungry
laoshan waterfall.. haha seriously. get excited. how much do you love her? would you engrave your names and throw away the key? brad wasn't with us (work- booo!) so i didn't have to test him.i swear something about this picture makes me think 1965. maybe just the rounded corners- thank you america we have mountain trails and you get dirty when climbing. in china you stay clean on the mountain but then get dirty walking through trash and mud on the street. i teach social studies. i can't resist a pic of terracing. i'm sure my students will be SO appreciative someday. you know how excited middle schoolers can be about learning. Oh no! hold on!phew - safe and sound and a tad more normalgetting closer to the top!seriously lady, you can't be shy if you want your stall at the top of the mountain.travis and marissa - cute cute cuteand me too, i'm cute too. (kidding - shout out to sister lindsey)laoshan water or beer. what's your pleasure?pour one out for reaching the last stop on the way down for some good chinese bargaining. adam was going to get his way!... and he did - i didn't... stupid.... i guess it is cost effective to know chinese.awww - back home at the da xue (university) and all back together. do you notice what's in the background???surprise! it's business - i mean cornhole time... brad's so crafty.rock it mrs. ball. show us whatchu got.good times. :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

There's no place like home

China, the place where muffins are waffles and microwaves are “heat boxes,” (the latter as per our college student Bill) is growing on me. The days are getting longer, flowers are blooming, and for the first time since October, I put on my flip flops this last Saturday and didn’t even bother to carry a jacket. Patrons at coffee houses are opening their tables’ windows to let the fresh air in, and the inexpensive street food ‘restaurants’ with the super friendly staff are setting up their tables outside again in anticipation for customers who, like Brad and me, want nothing more than to soak up the warming spring weather. Brad is dying to introduce this Chinese university to the American college campus game of Cornhole. We need to find and buy wood somewhere. We’ll keep you posted.

But I also miss home. I miss my now 7-month-old niece whom I have yet to meet and hold and kiss. I have missed all of my nephew Noah’s soccer games and a whole school year’s growth and silly stories from my nephews Miles and Griffin. I miss my parents’ hugs and belly laughs with my favorite girls. I love you all so much.

I also miss my country. Believe it or not, I miss the radio, especially NPR and The Ride. I miss American Idol! I miss my church. I miss the NBC Today show. (What's this I hear about Matt leaving??? I'm devastated!!! Don't kick me while I'm down!) I miss the excitement that being in the US would have brought being home right NOW. I am sad to have missed the excitement when the first announcements were made that Osama Bin Laden had had his last day.. The United States had finally been successful in this decade long hunt for his whereabouts. I am sad to have missed the chance to take a day off from my social studies lesson to discuss current events in class instead. I wonder what teachers and students have been talking about….

But the show must go on, even in China, and how fortunate am I to be able to have had these same kinds of discussions, but yet with a few Chinese? In my first college class after the news shouted the death of Bin Laden, I didn’t even have to bring the subject up. Ben, our sole student with perfect attendance, did so instead. It led to a two-hour discussion on everything from Bin Laden to Korea and Japan, to political philosophies around the world, to the impact and importance of religion in China. As I realized such a great discussion was happening, I suddenly was so sad that I didn’t have a tape recorder, or even my China notebook, so I could record and later recall everything that was said. (haha. In that same moment as my thoughts regretted not having something with which to record our conversation, I also realized I had totally missed what was just spoken so I had to snap out of it, suck it up, and just enjoy the moment.)

The Chinese, as I was told, have been taught about Bin Laden via books, textbooks, etc. They said that they have been taught the facts, but no opinions. Forming opinions has been left up to them. They’ve learned that he was from a wealthy family and used a lot of his wealth fighting the Soviets. At that time he was a good man doing good things. After that, of course, things changed and he started doing things that “were not so nice.” They really believed that he did these “not so nice” things at first to protect his family and his country from outsiders trying to force his family and country to be different from whom they wanted to be. One person mentioned she was surprised that the U.S. killed him, not just captured him to “talk to him” first. They don’t think killing at all is good, but they related the U.S. scorn of him and Al-Qaida to the Chinese hatred of the Japanese (due to Japanese mistreatment of the Chinese especially during WWII).

They don’t like how outside governments try to change other countries’ governments. They think that all countries know if their government is good or not and over time all countries really would and do change. They used China as an example. They told me that in the 1900s the Chinese people knew that things were not good in their country and the people began to change it. Still today, Chinese people look at the U.S. and other Western countries and feel that our governments work better and so they hope for continued change in their own government. They just don’t want to be told to change, or hinted at all that they in fact need to change. They related this especially to Korea. (Chinese regard Korea as one country.) They think that the Korean people will eventually change Korea on their own. “Countries are a lot like people, really,” one said.

A day or two after this conversation I had a hilarious interaction with a very friendly taxi driver. (Brad and I have found taxi drivers to really like Americans. Many of them, once finding out we’re from the U.S., often shout with a grin and a thumbs up or some gesture of the sort, “OBAMA! HA HA HA OBAMA!” It’s funny.every.time.) I was on my way back home from my primary school gig. After finding out I was from the U.S. (“may - gua”) the driver called out “OBAMA HA HA HA” but then made some gesture that looked like shooting a gun. I responded to the conversation as much I could without words and then assumed it to be over, but at a stop light he continued the conversation by putting his car in park and pulling out a newspaper from the side of his driver’s seat. He showed me the front page, a huge picture of Osama, then turned a few pages showing me all the pictures that there were of both President Obama and Bin Laden. He of course added, “OBAMA, OBAMA, HA HA HA!”

I wholeheartedly miss home, but China’s a pretty cool place to be too.