Friday, April 25, 2008

Holy cow!

One of the first lessons you learn in China is never to say you like something. An offhand, "oooh, I like that" about any object from food to trinket equates in many peoples' minds to "oooh, give that to me". However, this lesson was difficult to learn as an American, for I tend to like to fill lulls in conversation by discussing likes and dislikes. My mistakes in this area, though, have become fewer and farther between as I (somewhat) get the hang of indirect communication. Apparently, though, Sonny and I have not quite mastered this skill yet. Last night we went out with a student to a hot pot dinner. Hot pot is a meal which is explained by its name. You are literally given a hot pot--a pot full of boiling water--that is kept on a flame or hot plate in front of you. You then order an assortment of meats, vegetables, and other unidentifiable substances to cook in your pot, dip in a peanut sauce (my favorite part) and then eat. Basically, you pay to cook your own food. As we were going through the ordering process, the student was quizzing Sonny and I on what we wanted to eat. When discussing meats, to the lamb or beef question I responded, both are great. Sonny said he liked beef. Fish balls? No, thank you. Sonny, do you need another meat? And here is where our error must have come...Sonny responded, "No, I just like beef." Apparently, this statement translated to, "I eat A LOT of beef," for we ended up with not one, but two, large tubs of beef on the table (in addition to a plate of mutton, veggies, and noodles). I swear that between the three of us we must have eaten an entire cow. The amount of beef I consumed in that sitting was enough to almost turn me into a vegetarian. Ok, not really...I still love meat...but, holy cow!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


April snow showers kill April flowers...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sunny days

With the arrival of warm weather, many segments of the population have emerged from their winter hibernation. Children are allowed outside with exposed skin, the elderly sit and chat in parks, and everyone moves at a slightly less rushed pace. In the classroom, there is a slightly increased eagerness (for both the students and the teacher) for the class to finish so they can just get outside. Yesterday when the team went to meet the Edgars at the train station, I noticed another group of people enjoying the change in the weather. Along the main drag of the main street downtown there were about a dozen fortune tellers. Each fortune teller had two wooden sticks to bang together (to draw attention?) and sets of cards and charts spread out on a piece of paper in front of them. I've noticed fortune tellers before, but never so many in one place.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Springtime procrastination

When I pulled up my blog today, the dark colors just didn't seem to convey the arrival of spring. I decided the blog looked way to dark and depressing and hence needed a make-over. Consequently, instead of writing my midterms I've wasted away the time today figuring out how to edit my blog. I'm not entirely satisfied with the final product yet, but it's a start!

Jennifer, Rachel, and I have been doing Pilates three times a week this semester. We have a DVD that we use, and it's slowly becoming less painful. I thoroughly enjoy the "girl time" it provides. Today, for the first time, Samantha (my almost 1 year old teammate) joined us for Pilates. She thought the three of us contorted into various positions was absolutely hilarious and would burst into giggles every few moments--as well as trying to climb on us. We basically laughed our way through the whole workout today.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sensory women

Right now in my sophomore writing classes we're doing a unit on story-telling. This weekend the sophomores have one of their most important exams of their college careers, so a "light" unit on something that they naturally excel at (creativity) seemed to be the perfect fit. Today the lesson was focused on adjectives. More specifically, the aim of the lesson was to take the students beyond the five or so adjectives they use WAY too often (i.e. colorful, lovely, interesting, beautiful, and wonderful). At the beginning of the lesson we were talking about what makes excellent writers excellent. Their notes had blanks on it to fill in with the following sentence: "What separates excellent writers from average writers is their ability to use vivid sensory ___________." I asked my students which word they thought should go in the blank. Immediately, a student called out "women!". I guess if I want to improve my writing, I need to start including some sensory women...whatever that might mean!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sorry boys, I'm taken

Reportedly, Will (my two year old teammate) announced to a group of students last night that Jude (my six year old teammate) is going to marry Samantha (my almost one year old teammate) and that he (Will) is going to marry Kat (me). Wow, I think that's the most parenthetical references I've used in a sentence in a long time. Hope you followed that. So boys, sorry, but it looks like little Will has staked his claim. :) I'm quite flattered and think he will make an excellent husband--he loves to come to my house and help wash dishes (aka play with bubbles) and help cook. Today he helped me make pumpkin muffins for the team (and only had to ask me about twenty times during the process what we were doing). I had gone over to his house to borrow some pans and he invited himself over to my house--as in he stated very simply, "I'm going to Kat's house." I love having kids around!

The other kid who made my day today was Ai Jia. This little girl is finally back from her cleft palette surgery and she's looking great! She is just one of those babies who has completely stolen my heart. She's such a sweetie, babbles quite a bit, and has the most gorgeous eyes.
In other news, my animosity for Dongbei springs is lessoning as the cherry blossoms have come out in full force. Maybe I do love spring after all! Monday is supposed to be beautiful weather, and since I don't teach or have my Chinese lesson (Juniors are student teaching), I'm going to try and go out to a local park for a day of reflection. Fingers crossed that the forecast is right and sunshine is headed our way!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Olympic spirit

After a couple deceivingly balmy days, the weather has turned again. Hopefully this chilly blast will be short-lived. However, the warmth lasted long enough to bring out buds. The short season of cherry blossoms is one of my favorite times in China...hopefully this cold snap doesn't make this season even shorter! Yesterday, the Clements and Mark took part in an Olympic torch race. I tagged along as photographer. A student had planned the project as a creative homework assignment for Mark's class. A group of about a dozen students, Mark & the Clements, and the chair of our department, Queen, participated. There was little fanfare and few adoring fans, but we all enjoyed the taste of the Olympic spirit. Jude got the privilege of keeping the Olympic torch.

This morning I had the fun experience of going to the hospital (a place I usually try to avoid at all costs) to have a TB test done (required by Wheaton for participation in the program this summer). A senior student offered to take me--and it's a good thing she was there! There is absolutely no way I could find my way through the red tape of the hospital. After a series of conversations at a series of desks and in a series of offices, I successfully received my injection. We'll go back on Saturday to see if I'm TB free.

With my junior students out on their student teaching assignment, my teaching schedule is reduced to two days a week. It's been nice to have a little bit of a break and to get back into the grad work. It's hard to believe it's already April 10th! Before I know it, it will be time to take that long journey back to the States again.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Black hole located

Soooo...not thirty minutes after I wrote the last post, I located the black hole. It is true that I don't have closets. However, I do have kitchen cabinets. Silly me, I never thought a broom would fit in a kitchen cabinet. After I posted about the mystery, I was in search of some other activity that would legitimately justify procrastinating the grad work I had already been procrastinating a week. I decided a spring cleaning inside and out of my windows was just the ticket. In order to undergo this mission, I had to dig to the back of one of my kitchen cabinets for my windex. To my surprise, tucked at the very back of the cabinet behind the pipes for the sink were two brooms and two dust pans. I'm sure my cleaning lady was quite surprised at the arrival of another broom and dust pan this past Friday... At least now I know its hiding place! I used my new found broom (wrapped in paper towels duck taped to the broom and drenched in windex) to try to reach the far end of the outside of my bedroom window (I live on the third floor and was precariously perched on a 5 inch wide ledge...shhhh, don't tell my mom!). However, when I tried to replace the broom in its new resting place, for the life of my I couldn't get it to neatly fit back into the cabinet. This fact only further confirms the notion I've had for awhile; my cleaning lady is a wonderwoman!

After wiping off layers of coal dust from the inside of my windows and dirt from the outside, the windows sparkle. The amount of entirely black paper towels (about 2 full rolls) is a little disturbing if I reflect that I've been breathing all of those lovely particles...but, we won't reflect on that long. Today I finally returned to the grad work...if I could only keep that momentum going!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Broom black hole

My apartment has developed a black hole for brooms and mops. A couple weeks ago I was looking for my broom. Towards the end of last semester, I started having the lady who cleans Sarah's, the Wu's, and the Clement's homes clean my house once a week. Hence, I had found no need to use my broom in quite some time. However, I was shocked that the broom was gone when I went to fetch the broom from its normal resting place behind my fridge. I noticed my mop and dust pan were missing as well. Sometimes my cleaning lady moves things to places she deems more proper, so I began searching my house. My house really is not that large, and since there are no closets there aren't too many places to hide a broom. Within a few moments I had ascertained that indeed, my cleaning instruments were missing. Not that I was looking for the broom to clean with--I wanted to unscrew the pole part of it and use it as a cane in a role play for class. I borrowed Michelle's broom pole for this purpose, and though perplexed, let the missing broom slip to the back of my mind.

This Thursday night, right before students came over, I dropped and broke a glass full of water in my kitchen. With their impending arrival, I shut the kitchen door and forgot about it for the next couple of hours. However, after the students left I set about cleaning up the mess. The disappearing broom came back to haunt me. I went to the Wus to borrow their broom and explained my conjecture that the cleaning lady had done something (not maliciously--she's a very sweet sister and I absolutely adore her) with my broom. They laughed at this proposition and willingly lent me their broom. I cleaned up the mess, and since it was late at night, set their broom behind my fridge to return to them the next day. Friday morning my cleaning lady came and made my apartment spotless. This morning (Saturday), Wu came to fetch their broom. Sure enough, their broom and dust pan has disappeared. We're guessing our dear cleaning lady has put the brooms somewhere (she rides her bike here and we highly doubt she takes them with her), but are utterly confused as to where the broom black hole is located.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Changeable weather

Spring in Siping...beware of flying bags

My first year in China, I used to snicker a little bit when students would tell me, "Be careful, Miss Katherine; the weather is very changeable." The phrase "the weather is very changeable" just sounded a little bit silly to me, as did directly pointing out the weather's changeability. However, I now confess the validity in this statement. In fact, I caught myself yesterday remarking, "The weather is very changeable in the spring." Perhaps I have lived in China too long. However, I've learned that the northeast truly does have very changeable springs. One day you're deceived by balmy warm weather and the next day you have snow dumped on you. A couple days later the temperature will rise, but you'll be confronted with winds you would swear had the strength of a hurricane. These factors have led me to detest spring in the northeast--at least early spring. Spring does not evoke pictures of pretty flowers, little bunnies, and sunny days following a warm rain. Rather, spring conjures up images of dust storms, winds too strong to bike in, and unexpected snow showers. Consequently, I have concluded that fall truly is my favorite season in this part of China. A funny story from today. Each week I usually invite one of my classes over to watch a movie. Attendance isn't required, but I usually have about a dozen students show up. I always bake a snack, often chocolate chip cookies. Let me preface the story by saying most students love the cookies, and in fact request to learn how to make them. However, this morning I was messaging on my cell phone with one of the students coming over tonight. We were agreeing on a time and she was telling me how many people were planning on coming. This part of the conversation was entirely ordinary. But then I got a message saying, "Miss Katherine, could you please put less sugar in the dessert, we think it's too sweet." I quickly got over the shock that they would actually make that request (it's not all that surprising here) and refrained myself from the quip, "then why don't you pick something up from a Chinese bakery". I do understand that American desserts are much sweeter than things in China, hence why I like them. :) But tonight I will refrain from making cookies (which you really can't just make with less sugar) and instead make banana muffins. Sigh...crazy Chinese wonder they're so slender!