Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Quote of the day

Sonny, as we tried to explain the appeal and wonderfulness of High School Musical to Daren.

"It's like Mean Girls for baptists."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happy Birthday JLNU!

This week the school celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. The remarkable thing is that my company has had teachers here for half of that history. In recognition of that fact, our company's president was in town to commemorate the occasion.

The campus hasn't looked quite this spectacular since I moved here two years ago. The buildings around the main square all got fluorescent light outlines, new statues were placed, and new fountains installed. Balloons were inflated and flags were placed just about anywhere one could think to put a flag. Huge banners hung down the ten stories of the first teaching building. The second teaching building, a somewhat drab building, got a small face lift by way of student made decorations on all of the classroom walls. One such decoration was written in English and had the title of "Friends" with the following phrases written below:

I won't let her without a fight.

It could happen to everyone.
I'm a laundry virgin.
Why don't we give this a try.

I must confess that I spent a few moments of my students journal writing time chuckling at this somewhat random assortment of phrases, especially "I'm a laundry virgin". Don't ask me why that's there--three years in China and I haven't a clue.

Thursday night featured performances that students had been working on for months. Most of the performers were from the art and music department, which added a class and talent level beyond which I've witnessed before. The highlight (among many) for me was the dance labeled by Sonny as the "Tibetan Jack Sparrows". If you look below, you'll see the costumes do have quite the Jack Sparrow vibe. Regardless, the dance was phenomenal.

Friday morning was slightly less entertaining for us foreigners, as we got to practice our Chinese listening to the ten speeches of the official anniversary ceremony. However, it was fun to hear our president give his speech.

Lastly, the birthday of the school has provided me with my two minutes of fame. I was somehow chosen to be the token foreigner in the anniversary book, or as Sonny says, the "foreign eye candy". I guess it doesn't really count as my few minutes of fame, since my name isn't even listed. I am simply "A foreign teacher teaching".

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pure bliss

I inherited it from my grandma (as did my dad): a love of good food and showing love through good food. There are few things I enjoy more, when time permits, than to spend an afternoon in the kitchen creating. This weekend is a holiday weekend in China; classes are canceled on Monday for mid-Autumn day festival. I don't have classes on Tuesday, or Friday, which means I actually have quite the nice break! Things haven't gotten too busy yet, and with students gone for the weekend I've been left with some free time (what a novelty!). One of the comfort foods I always miss in China is fresh, piping hot french bread. The type with crispy crust and a soft center. The Chinese do many things extraordinarily well (we all know this after seeing the opening ceremony). However, bread is not one of those things. It's often dry, too sweet, and just not up to my admittedly picky standards. This week I got the grand idea that I could make french bread for myself (yes, I know, you're saying, 'it took you three years to figure this out?'). So today, with my free time, I set my mind to do exactly that. I've made yeast breads before, but never a baguette, so it was new territory for me. But armed with a recipe from allrecipes (best recipe site on the internet in my opinion!) I felt fairly confident. To me, bread making is strangely therapeutic. The smell of yeast takes me back to grandma's kitchen, and the rhythm in kneading bread is a great stress reliever. While the bread was rising, I also threw together a peach pie for the team. I was blessed with a gorgeous sunset outside of my kitchen window as I worked. By the time I finished the kitchen was covered in a layer of flour, and the sink had a mound of dirty dishes. But that bite of hot, crispy yet chewy, fresh french bread...well, it (and the preparation) was simply pure bliss.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Toward the end of last year, I picked up a paper cut while in Beijing of one of my favorite passages. Last week I headed out with one of my Chinese tutors to find a place to frame it. All I wanted was a simple black frame. Simple is not always something excelled in by the Chinese, especially when it comes to home decor. After visiting three shops, I found a frame sample that was fairly simple for a price I was willing to pay. The shopkeeper informed us it would be ready on Sunday. I dutifully returned on Sunday, to be told (not surprisingly) that it was not ready, but would surely be ready tomorrow. I waited to return until today (Thursday) to assure its completion. The shopkeeper saw me walk in and hurried to get the finished product. He proudly held it up for my inspection and proceeded to explain that he thought the frame I chose wasn't very beautiful and didn't really go well with the paper cut, so he chose another frame. Additionally, the plain off white backing I had for the cut out was deemed unattractive. Instead, he chose a backing that looks a little bit like cork board. "Now doesn't that look great?" he asked me, beaming with pride. I was a little lost at what was culturally appropriate to say at the moment, especially since he was the "expert" in framing pictures. I knew I didn't have the language skills to delicately and indirectly explain that while his work was indeed lovely, there was a reason I chose the frame I did. Instead, I smiled, said thank you and headed home. Just another day in China.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Happy Teacher's Day!

Today is national teacher's day, which translates into obscenely large flower and fruit baskets for teachers. These tokens of gratitude are presented with well wishes like, "I hope you more and more beautiful for many years to come." My students were kind enough to give me one of each type of basket this morning. I was touched by their generosity...until it came to lugging both of them home in the pouring rain while also trying to juggle an umbrella. The umbrella never would have happened if some student hadn't taken pity on me and opened it for me on my way out of the building. I must have looked somewhat pathetic. I had the fruit basket somewhat slung (and cutting off the circulation) on one arm, with the other arm wrapped around the large flower basket. I gingerly found my way home, attempting to avoid the puddles. The last obstacle to tackle was fitting in and pushing the revolving door of my apartment building. By the time I made it inside, I had given the front desk ladies a good laugh. Suppressing chuckles, they also wished me a happy teacher's day. Later on in the morning, Wu brought me the below gift from the department. I must admit that after the photo I removed some of the "flare" from the basket.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

They are precious in His sight

No words today...just pictures.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sore feet

The first week back always gets you. It takes awhile to get all the little piggies used to standing and being in heels for hours on end. The first week is always the most brutal...and I'm feeling it tonight. However, other than sore feet, it's been a great week. It has been wonderful to be back in the classroom. Until this afternoon, all of the classes I had were new classes (students I've never taught before). There's something about the freshness of a new slate with a new class that I love. Not to mention the fact that they explode with praise of, "You're so beautiful!" My students I've had before are more likely to say, "You're fatter than before!" Why yes I am, and I enjoyed my ice cream in America very much. However, I also love the comfort and familiarity of a class I've taught before. The class I taught this afternoon was one I've had for three semesters and have a tremendous relationship with. They understand me well enough to get my sarcasm (a tough thing for Chinese students to catch onto), to know when I'm serious, and when I'm kidding. They laugh at my jokes and clap when they find out I'm their teacher. They know when I mention football to cheer, "Go Ohio State!" and obligingly ask how my team is doing. And they make me laugh. Today I gave them a "quiz" about me to see how much they remembered. Part of the quiz was listing my hobbies. The class quickly came up with photography and cooking, and then were working on guessing the other two. From one corner of the class came "sleeping!" Well, yes, I do like my sleep. "Eating!" That could be true too. One sweet girl called out, "smiling!" Lest I get too big a head from that comment, a student called out from the front row, "giving quizzes!" Ah yes, this class knows me well. Later on, I was telling the class that I had changed apartments. As an explanation, I added that I now had a bigger kitchen. The quip from the second row quickly followed--"so now you can bake us more cookies!" I'll get right on that...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back in the saddle

**For those who may want to send me something in the mail...my mailing address did NOT change with the move down the hall. The old one will still work just fine!**
A week ago about this time I was rolling up to our apartment building greasy, smelly, and exhausted from a seemingly never-ending day of travel. A week later I'm smelling better, have my new house all set up, have taught my first class, and am organized for the new year. The first couple days were spent transporting all of my stuff (and it's amazing how much stuff a person can accumulate in three years) down the hall from my old apartment to my new apartment. I moved for the single reason of having a larger kitchen. I know, it sounds silly. But I cook a lot. And moving my fridge every time I needed to get in the freezer was getting old. An added bonus to my new place is seeing trees outside my bedroom window. Those who have visited or lived in China will understand the wonderfulness of this statement. Vegetation in cities is extremely sparse. If there are trees, they're usually not much taller than me and quite scrawny. However, outside my bedroom window is a small grove of big tall trees with big leaves that dance in the wind. What a treat!

This year has a very different feel from all previous years. I'm accustomed to the year beginning with a large meeting in Beijing with all of the teachers in China. However, due to the Olympics this year we all went straight to our schools. Our new teachers also will not arrive until the end of the month. Consequently, the team is "small" for the time being. We're missing three teachers, so Rachel and Jennifer have magnanimously (with compensation) stepped up to teach full loads for the month. This semester I'm teaching two sophomore writing classes, two junior speech classes, and one freshman oral class. The freshmen are currently learning how to march and chant and do other soldierly things, so that class won't begin until October. I'm excited to have one day off of teaching (Tuesdays), which will hopefully help with getting graduate work done.

Right now is my absolute favorite time in Siping. The temperature is around 75, with sunny blue skies. The grass is green, and there are even some flowers here and there. From past experience, I know this is about as pretty as it will be all year long, so I'm trying to soak in the beauty. It feels wonderful to be back here again; I'm always reminded every time I go away and come back how much this place truly is home. However, home is never perfect. The most glaring imperfection this week has been the water being shut off for several hour periods several times a day. I've got to have something that reminds me I still live in China... Most of the time this isn't a big deal, but there are moments of annoyance. Like today, when I got into the shower after working out with sweat pouring off of me (yes I know, you're thinking, Katherine? working out? gotta shed those pounds from all that good American ice cream...) only to discover there was no water. Lest you think I lied when I said I'm smelling better today than a week ago, the water did come on a few hours later and I got my long anticipated shower. :)

One final note, lest you think my fervent love has somehow dissipated. This past weekend contained the sheer joy of watching Michigan choke once again in its opener and Ohio State steam roll its opponent. Here's hoping Beanie heals fast and will be ready for USC.