I Feel a Bit Guilty About Yesterday’s Post

So after I totally dissed my students in yesterday’s post, I had my last class with one group of kids. We had a christmas party (I do it every year) and when class was almost over one student stood up and said they had a special gift for me.

He brought up his backpack and dramatically took out pieces of the gift. First a bamboo brush, then a bottle of ink, then a porcelain ink plate and finally a pack of calligraphy paper. It was a very sweet gift (I like they were sharing Chinese culture with me) and I was touched.

But then they still had one more surprise. The boy took out a piece of paper in which he had written something in english…

In Chinese class


Now I’m feeling bad I was so harsh on them during the final exams and said bad things about them in yesterdays blog post.

Lesson learned? Flattery works.



Categories: China, Teaching English | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Sad Realizations at Final Exams

My students working in a recent class.

The semester is almost over and it’s final exams week. I really wracked my brain this semester, because teaching non-majors is much more of a challenge. I needed the same final exam that would be appropriate for students with a vastly different level, as well as something that wouldn’t bore me to tears. These new students tend to take the easy way out and answer any question with some trite, “my parents support me and love me,” or “we should help poor people,” or “I want to travel around the world with my parents.” These are phrases and saying that just roll off their tongue but really tell me nothing about them or their real feelings.

So I ended up choosing 20 conversation-starting questions. Like, even for native speakers they are fun to talk about. For instance, If you could lock up one person in a room and torment them for 24 hours, whom would you choose and how would you torment them? Or, what vegetable do you resemble?

And through these questions, I have been getting to know my students a little better. Sometimes, I end up feeling quite bad for them.

One question, what was the worst punishment your parents have ever done to you, had a few especially sad answers. Here are a few;

One day when I did poor on a test my mom stopped talking to me for 3 days. It was the worst 3 days of my life.

I once got a 95 on a test. When I told my mother she closed the door and beat me for my carelessness. She taught me to take my time and be more careful, but unfortunately I am still careless sometimes and don’t get 100.

My dad was angry at me but he said “you are an adult now and you need to think for yourself.”

(Then I asked: That was a punishment? And the student said yes.)

There was one girl who was asked if she could go back to any time in history where would she go? She said her parents wedding because now her parents are so miserable, and fight all the time she wants to see them when they were happy. Her earnest naivete was heartbreaking.

And one girl gave everyone chills with the question, “when has a bad experience turned out to be for the best.

Me and my friends had planned a trip for several months, but right before the trip I got really sick and couldn’t even move. So my friends stayed home and took care of me. Then we later found out the bus we were supposed to be on got in a bad accident and many people were seriously hurt.


Some students used their wits. One question was, should books be censored? When I asked one boy another question (what would he do if he was president) he said that actually he had prepared the censored books question, so if he was president he would censor books because….and continued with his prepared speech. I gave him points for creativity of  linking the questions.

Because I noticed that was exactly what was lacking in the exam….creativity. I’ll admit that I couldn’t even fathom how boring these questions could be answered. I chose them for their creativity and I thought there was no way they could give boring or trite answers. But I was wrong.

One question was “If you were immortal for 24 hours what would you do?” One student gave a great answer. She would try all different ways of killing herself just to feel what it felt like and she would drink all kinds of poisons just to see what they tasted like.

But most were annoyingly simple answers of, “I would go travel to all the wonderful places and eat delicious food,” or “I would go home to visit my family.” It showed a lack of understanding for sure (how does being immortal for a day let you travel???) but it really showed a lack of thinking, because “go travel around the world” and “help the poor” was one of the most common answers for pretty much every question.

If you could live 24 hours and then erase it the next day, what would you do? Help the poor, go travel around the world.

If you had one super power what would it be? Them: Help poor people. Me: how? Them: (panic in their eyes) ….help……them…..?

If you were president what would you do? Help poor people, or go around to all the countries to meet other leaders and eat delicious food.

One boy actually hit the nail on the head with his answer. I asked him the president question and he said he would build a movie theater in his hometown and watch movies with his family.

I looked at him incredulously and said, “If you were the president of China you would build a movie theater in your hometown and watch movies?!”

He looked at me and shrugged. “It’s too big a question. I cannot think so big so I think small.”

That was it. These kids I’m teaching are the smartest in the school. Their gaokao (college entrance exam) scores were the highest and yet despite that, or because of it, they have no creativity or free-thinking. Even though they are more free in college they have very few hobbies or interests outside of school. If you ask them most say their hobbies are sleeping and eating.

And I’m frustrated because I know students have it in them to be better. I’ve had 5 years of technically dumber, but more creative students. These guys aren’t English majors and this is the only class taught by a foreigner they will have in their college career. At least English majors learn quickly that foreign teachers and Chinese teachers are different and they can be creative and have fun in class. But my new students have never encountered a foreign teacher before and never will again. So they teach me like a Chinese teacher which I hate. They are more worried about giving “the right answer” and if they don’t know it, they would rather stay quiet then offer a wrong one.

(And I should clarify it is not all of them, there are a few that are great and funny and interesting, but they are the exceptions rather than the rule.)

So, while I fell disappointment in their behavior and lack of imagination, the good news is that it is their final exam which means the semester is over and I have more than 2 months holiday to look forward to. What’s the plan for this holiday? Just wait for my next blog post!

Of course "my babies" were the last ones left at the party and we sand "yi ran ai ni" together (which is our song as I sang it to them at a christmas party 2 years ago. The song has come to represent the love and bond between all of us.

My “babies” were funny, and creative and relaxed in class. They spoiled me and made me have higher expectations of my students.




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Funny English Names of my Chinese Students

Hello my name is...One of my very first posts in China was about students picking hilarious English names. It just cracked me up that a boy would call themselves “Cookies” or a girl “Super.” But like all things, you get immune to it. I’ve had plenty of none traditional names over the years, like “Lightning,” “Blue,” “Superman.” (Hell, my best friends name is “Color.“) But I got used to it. I kinda stopped seeing them as crazy and liked them. (Remembering the name Silmon is a whole lot easier than normal names like Wendy, or Lucy).

So I thought I had “seen it all” when it came to English names. Then I met my new students.

These guys aren’t English majors and therefore their exposure to western culture is much less. They also aren’t required to have an english name, so it’s totally up to them.

Maybe about half of them had English names, but most were kinda expected. Lucy’s, Daisy’s, John’s and May’s. There were plenty kinda “normal strange” like Tiger, Yeats, Pudding.

But then there were crazy off the wall, not even English ones. Most notable are Kumbko, Fuladino, Sharo and Past (okay, past is a real word, but his explanation of his name was awesome. He has 2 sisters and their English names are Future and Present. So his family coordinated unique English names which I thought was clever.)

But the all time weirdest name is….International Guo. The class cracks up every time I say his name in roll call, and I can’t help but say it with a flourish. He’s the first student who I recognize by name outside of class. See, the crazy names really do stick.

But the best goes to one student who stood up and instead of telling me his name said, “Names are meaningless so there is no reason to tell you mine. I am who I am.”

Can’t argue with that.

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Trying for a Work/Life Balance While Living on Campus

My students working in a recent class.

My students working in a recent class.

Almost exactly five years ago I went to my first dinner with students. I was so excited, and honored back then that the students wanted to spend time with me. That even though they didn’t know me very well, and their English level was a little low, they were willing to spend time, speaking English, with me.

20/20 hindsight…

Since that slow beginning I have had dozens and probably hundreds of dinners with my students. It’s been one of my favorite parts of being a teacher; getting to know my students and spending free time with them. Besides just dinners we’ve gone out drinking together, had parties together and even done some traveling.

But long time readers might notice that recently I haven’t talked much about my students. And as my first semester at a new school is wrapping up, I thought I should share why.

My last school was located in the corner of a small city in the middle of nowhere. There were barely any foreign restaurants much less English speakers or activities that people in big cities enjoy. I would go to Hangzhou to participate in some things like the TED talks, but to do that would mean two-hours on the road and quite a bit of money spent.

So with less to do, and living on campus, I found my students to be a source of incredible fun. (And what fun we had. See this, this and this for a small sampling.)

My connection iwth my former students still runs strong. One of "my boys" came to Xiamen and we got to spend the day together!

My connection with my former students still runs strong. Lindy, one of “my boys” came to Xiamen and we got to spend the day together!

But now I decided to make a conscious effort to stay away from my students and not get so close. You see living in a school where most of your friends also lives is a bit complicated. I always had to be “on” and be ready to see people and get invites at all hours to do things. It would always be fun, but its a bit unsettling when you’re an introvert like myself. When I go to the store I just wanna go, and not run into people and suddenly get invited out for dinner or drinks.

I wanted a work/life separation.

Sorry for my current students but that’s what I did. Here daily life is so active and I stumbled upon a huge group of amazing friends I am as busy as I want to be without being close friends with my students. Add to that that this year I am not teaching English majors. I’m teaching business students who have English as an after thought. Their level is all over the place, and some cannot even communicate with simple words. So while I’m nice to them, and will help them if they need it, we don’t have the closeness like I did with students in the past.

And that’s good. No, that’s great. I know I’m missing out on some connections and some meanings in my job, but now I’m free to go out and explore and meet new people and do new things. And while my closest friends here are foreigners, my general friend group is mostly chinese people in their 20’s and 30’s. I’m getting a whole new perspective on China and Chinese culture from them then I did with my students. Also, as my “babies” have graduated and are growing up, I get to hear from them about how they deal with the challenges of their lives. (Yes, I’m in regular contact with dozens of my former students still.)

So while I feel a little bad that my job is now “just” a job, it’s a conscious effort on my part to make sure I don’t get too lost in it. For the first time I’m treating my job like a job. I go in, do the work to the best of my ability, and go home. I’m still a stickler about teaching quality stuff and giving them an education I think they deserve, but at the end of class I clock out and don’t look back.

So, that’s why I haven’t talked about it much. It’s just a small part of my life now. And I got more interesting things to do.


(Edit–After I had written this, but before I posted it a student timidly approached me during break time and asked “I’d be honored to invite you to have a cup of coffee with me,” and of course I said yes. So it looks like I can’t remain as tangle-free as I’d like. Despite the dozens of invites I can’t help but feel honored when a student asks me to hang out, especially when they are clearly so shy and nervous about it, so looks like I’m all talk and no bite!)

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Fighting the Pressures of “Busyness” in China

Sitting in cafe's for hours just writing or reading? Not some secret pleasure, but part of my weekly schedule now that I have the time.

Sitting in cafe’s for hours just writing or reading? Not some secret pleasure, but part of my weekly schedule now that I have the time.

I recently read this interesting blog post from one of my favorite blogs, Brain Pickings. It’s all about Alan Watts and the art of timing. How we are all so consumed with busyness we often overlook the pleasures of the moment for anticipation of the future and when that future arrives, we don’t even notice because we are anticipating the future even more.

One thing I’ve been quite grateful about is getting out of the “busyness” culture that is so pervasive in America. The culture in where being busy, overworked and stressed is something you are proud of.

“You think you had a bad week, well, just listen to mine…”

And if your free and available often, people begin to think there is something wrong with you. Like, how can you have all this free time? If you’re not involved in a hundred different sports, activities, parties, organizations etc, you are seen as kinda a loser.

“Do you even work at all?” say people snidely. or if you work part-time people kinda scoff and say “wish I could have such an easy life.”

I get sucked into it as much as they next person. Before I came to China I was working two full-time jobs to save money to come to China while also running my own business. It sucked, but there was a small point of pride…look how tough I was. I was weak, exhausted and sick all the time, but I worked and ran my own business dammit! I was bad-ass!

When I came to China working a mere 16 hours seemed downright sinful. But I have decided to grab onto that work-week and not let it go for anything. Even with extra hours added in for homework and prep time, it’s really not that much. In fact, almost all foreigners get some part-time work, either tutoring, or working for testing agencies because we have so much time available.

I’m asked on an almost daily basis if I can tutor someone, or interview them, or just “speak english with them” to prepare them for a test. And I’ve been offered even bigger opportunities like when people want me to be their business partner in opening an english school. But I turn down almost every single offer I have ever gotten. Not because I don’t have time, but because I want time.

I love my free time here in China. I think it is one of the reasons I enjoy living here so much. Because of my free time I can get to know my students, I can make new friends, meet new people and spend my time doing exactly what I want. Since living in China I’ve participated in two National Novel Writing Months (and won both

times, thankyouverymuch), played frisbee, traveled to over 35 cities, read hundreds of books and learned to speak a foreign language.  Things I neither had the time or energy to do in America. (Okay, I read a lot but that was it.)

Because I had the time, I've become friends with this amazing group of people. (Can you find me?)

Because I had the time, I’ve become friends with this amazing group of people. (Can you find me?)

Admittedly I probably watch too many TV shows and play Candy Crush too often but as the Lennon quote says “Time you enjoy wasting wasn’t wasted.” I like that when I’m coming back from the store I can just sit on a bench near my school and look at the scene and enjoy the afternoon sun without having to rush away. I like that people text me all the time knowing I will respond quickly and I love sitting at home all day not changing out of my PJ’s once.

Of course, despite my conscious effort to hold onto my free time I too sometimes feel guilty about it. With a friends offhand remarks such as, “You’ve got plenty of time, do you want to tutor this kid? I’m too busy.” I feel like I am somehow failing the human race by not packing my schedule.  Like I’m not pulling my weight with the rest of the world and I should shape up and do what everyone else is doing.

But then I look at how healthy(-ish) I am, compared to when I was busy, I look at how many more interesting experiences I have now and I don’t regret it. Could I make a lot more money if I really pushed myself? yeah. Do I want to? No.  None of us know how many more turns around the sun we’ll get and my days are limited. So instead of working hard in my youth to retire to the easy life when I’m old, I decided to fight for the life that I want now. And if it means being labeled a lazy weirdo, well, I’ll take it. I’ve been called worse. ;)


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Frisbee Will Kill Us ALLLLLLL!!!!

The pictures in the post were taken by Xiao shuai, a friend of the frisbee team who has a nice camera and a great eye.

The pictures in the post were taken by Xiao shuai, a friend of the frisbee team who has a nice camera and a great eye. They were all taken last weekend at the practice I hurt myself at. 

So playing Ultimate Frisbee is a big thing around here. We play it every Wednesday night and most of the day on Sunday. I don’t go that often, but when I do it’s really fun. If you’d never played, Ultimate Frisbee is a lot like (american) football, or basketball or hockey. You try to get the frisbee to your goal, while your opponents try to block you and steal the Frisbee for themselves.

Fun, that is, until I realized that frisbee is trying to kill us all! And it’s succeeding.

It started months ago. I had heard of this really cool girl named Waiwai, who was good at Frisbee but who didn’t come to practices that often. That’s because she had hurt her knee and had to have a few surgeries and couldn’t play for months.

Then there was a guy named Ivan. He’s probably the biggest Ultimate Frisbee fan in all of China (and has traveled around Europe playing Frisbee–more on him soon). But he has to take it easy because he has messed up both wrists playing Frisbee recently. Then I have another friend who has a sore back for a few days after he plays frisbee, and he plays every few days…

But those are people I met recently, and major frisbee players. A little injury is to be expected, right? But then frisbee decided to attack closer to home.

My good friend Zoe plays every weekend, and travels to nearby cities for tournaments. Or did, until she jumped to catch and landed wrong on her ankle 2 weeks ago. The poor girl has been limping, and hopping. The swelling goes down a little and she goes off crutches, only to have it get worse. Her underarms are worn raw from the crutches she needs to get around.


Then my friend Jen sent us a picture after a regular practice of a blackened hand where the frisbee had jammed into her.

And then the frisbee gods deemed it was my turn. I was just playing, running around and having fun (for the record I am a TERRIBLE player–honestly, I don’t even know the rules and when they say stuff like “force lake” or “stack up” I actually have no idea what they mean and I just watch other people and do what they are doing).

Ultimate frisbee Xiamen

After playing several games I was running up the field when I heard a weird ‘pop’ from my leg. I had one millisecond to think “Uh-oh” before my leg touched the ground and I felt shooting pain.  I didn’t make a big deal of it, I just immediately limped off the ground and asked someone to go in for me.

Then I sat down.

I didn’t want to seem like a whiny baby, and one of my darling former students was visiting me and I didn’t want to worry him, but it hurt A LOT. Walking was nearly impossible. I could put my good leg forward, then kind shuffle my bad leg to keep it. Step by tiny step, it took forever to walk anywhere.

Ultimate frisbee Xiamen

I made it home and I went straight to Dr. Google. Turns out that popping sound is quite normal for tearing a calf muscle. Yep, I tore my mother-f’ing calf muscle and it seems like it will take 4 weeks or so to heal.

But life must go on, and while I was VERY tempted to cancel class because of the pain, I went. Step, drag, step, drag. My normally 6 minute walk to class took close to thirty. The one flight of stairs I had to climb to the classroom made me want to burst into tears they seemed so imposing. And the four flights to my room? I stayed in my place starving the first night rather than go down and up them to get some food at the cafeteria on the first floor. (My friends ended up rescuing me later.)

China has the worst infrastructure for handicapped people. My building has 3 steps to enter it. Three tiny steps. With my leg it is a small obstacle. But what about my friend with crutches? Or what about a person in a wheelchair? There is no ramp, and once in, there is no elevator either.

My classroom building is the same. It’s built on a slight incline so there are several steps to get in and classrooms on five floors with no elevator. And this is a public university.

And it’s not just that, but everything is so dependent on walking here. Even to get a taxi to go to the doctor would necessitate a 10 minute walk to the nearest school gate and then who knows how long a wait until I flagged one down. And the very convenient supermarket, only minutes away, turned into an endurance test I almost failed. (Luckily I ran into students who carried my bags for me.)

So this stupid frisbee injury has made me appreciate walking, and how easy it is for most of us. (I should be able to walk again in 4 or 5 days if it heals properly.) But it has actually made me pretty outraged at the lack of accessibility here. It’s been something I’ve noticed and disagreed on, but I never truly realized how bad the situation is until I was put in that position.

So frisbee, lay off my friends and let them play without injury. And China? Get with the program and make things more accessible. Now if you excuse me I’m gonna go ice my leg some more.

Ultimate frisbee Xiamen


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Hash House Harriers — A Drinking Club with a Running Problem

We met at a bus station to begin the run. The "On On" marks the beginning of the trail.

We met at a bus station to begin the run. The “On On” marks the beginning of the trail.

So last weekend I participated in my first “Hash” run. That is, the Hash House Harriers, an international group that organizes runs all over the world.

The origins of the group is as British as the name. It started in 1938 when a bunch of British expats in Malaysia decided to run every monday to burn off the excesses of their crazy weekends. But not just a normal run, they decided to keep it in the style of a hare and hound race. A tradition that lives on today.

The “hare” sets up the course, and the runners have no idea where it goes. Real hounds follow the trail by scent, but us humans need a more visual guide. The Hare leaves a flour trail. About every 30 meters there is a mark, a patch of flour, that you need to look for to follow.

But the hare has some tricks, and includes false trails, and intersections. At an intersection (marked by a big open circle made of flour) runners have to go out in all 3 directions and figure out which is the real path. These kinds of traps and false leads are meant to keep the groups together and give slower runners a chance to catch up. When a runner finds the real trail they yell “On on!” and everyone follows them.

Before we started the Hare explained all the marks and their meanings. FT means false trail.

Before we started the Hare explained all the marks and their meanings. FT means false trail.


A different Hare sets up each run, and in Xiamen they tend to be about 10k all together. But remember they are a drinking club, so there are beer stops along the way for everyone to catch up and take a break. (And start getting drunk.)

In Xiamen they set up two courses, one for runners and one for walkers. The people that participated were a wide group in both nationality and age. About half were chinese, and half were foreigners (though the leaders of the club are all foreigners.) Everyone had to pay $3 which covered all the beer and snacks and everything was done in English and Chinese.

The start point is marked with a flour “On On” and the finish is marked with an “On In.” Before we started we did some warm-up exercises to the tune of “Father Abraham” and we were off. (Singing is a large part of the Hash.) Our walk took us 3 hours and winded along the Xiamen seaside. It was one of my favorite walks I’ve been on here as the path went through tiny villages, community gardens, and the beach.

We started on the street but soon we were walking through tiny villages and alleyways.

We started on the street but soon we were walking through tiny villages and alleyways.

The path can be tiny, and some of the boys followed a false trail up these steps.

The path can be tiny, and some of the boys followed a false trail up these steps.

We ended up in a park, and had to squeeze through some bars to follow the trail.

We ended up in a park, and had to squeeze through some bars to follow the trail.

But then we lost the trail and someone even went under the bridge to see if we could find it again (all he found was garbage). We had to go back and re-trace our footsteps to find the trail again.

But then we lost the trail and someone even went under the bridge to see if we could find it again (all he found was garbage). We had to go back and re-trace our footsteps to find the trail again. You can see the patch of flour on the lower right hand corner we were following.)

After 7k we took a short beer break, conveniently set up near a bathroom.

After 7k we took a short beer break, conveniently set up near a bathroom. Even though it’s late November you can see the weather was incredibly hot and sunny, so a break was nice.

We walked through tiny villages, the local people shocked that a large group was suddenly in their quiet neighborhood.

We walked through tiny villages, the local people shocked that a large group was suddenly in their quiet neighborhood.

At the beach we couldn't resist stopping to take a photo break.

At the beach we couldn’t resist stopping to take a photo break.

The walk ended at the top of a park, right on the ocean and near this beautiful lighthouse.

The walk ended at the top of a park, right on the ocean and near this beautiful lighthouse.

When you arrive at the end, the Hare, and a ton of beer, is waiting for you. Everyone circles up, and people are called out for various reasons (such as first-timers, slowest, fastest, most appropriately dressed, least appropriately dressed etc) and are made to stand in the middle of the circle. There are various lewd songs (sung to common tunes like amazing grace) that the group sings and the people in the middle have to chug their cup of beer as fast as they can and tip the empty cup over their head to show they have finished. If you don’t chug it, the leader tips a full cup of beer over your head as punishment. (They also had soda and water for those of us who didn’t feel like drinking.)

As one of the "virgins" I had to go up an introduce myself.  The leader held a cup of beer over our heads in case we messed up or didn't drink fast enough.

As one of the “virgins” I had to go up an introduce myself. The leader held a cup of beer over our heads in case we messed up or didn’t drink fast enough.

It was my friends last Has before he moved so he was assigned the role of "beer bitch," making sure everyone had a full cup of beer during the last part.

It was my friends last Hash before he moved so he was assigned the role of “beer bitch,” making sure everyone had a full cup of beer during the last part.

It’s definitely loud and bawdy, and I can see how, with the wrong group of people it can be rude and annoying. But we had a really good group (with a few old ladies too) and it was really fun. Afterwards, we walked down the mountain and ate a big seafood meal together.

The Xiamen group is a well established one (our walk was number 88, and they only do it once a month) and very inclusive. They didn’t pressure anyone to drink, (I didn’t) was nice to the newbies and made sure everyone was included.

Hash House Harriers has over 2000 groups all over the world, so if you are in China, or another country, you should check them out and hopefully has as much fun as I did!

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No I DO NOT Want to Drink F&%#%$ Hot Water

One of the nice things about being sick is one of my friends made a homemade meal for me. He lives far away and came all the way to my apartment and left it on the doorstep and ran away. He called me when he was already on the bus back home. It was the first time he made curry and soup and it was sooooo good.

One of the nice things about being sick is one of my friends made a homemade meal for me. He lives far away and came all the way to my apartment and left it on the doorstep and ran away. He called me when he was already on the bus back home. It was the first time he made curry and soup and it was sooooo good.

I just got over a cold, and not just a cold but like, a major disgusting, hocking, snotty nose, bleary-eyed flu. When you have a cold in China it’s basically better to keep it to yourself lest ye go mad. Why would you go mad? Because you hear the same few things over and over again and your already sick and cranky it’s easy to lose your temper.

What are some common things you hear when you are sick in china (For those of you in China, your already laughing aren’t you? Because you know exactly what I am going to say.)

“Drink more hot water”

This is the most annoying piece of advice you hear ALL THE TIME when living in China. My friend smashed her elbow, the bone, and went to the hospital. Their recommendation? Drink hot water. (Seriously, the doctors told her that. As if it could heal bone. They didn’t even give her a splint or anything just ‘drink more hot water.’)

I had to cancel 3 classes and many students kindly contacted me to see if I was okay. When I said I had a bad cold, their advice? Drink hot water. When I ran into people outside they took one look at me and said ‘drink more hot water.’ When my co-workers found out they said ‘drink more water.’ (But in an ironic mocking way as they also hate this piece of advice.)

Later in one of my classes I managed to drag myself to, a student admonished me. I had a water bottle filled with ice water and she said cold water was bad for me and I should drink hot water. I told her it soothed my voice which was hot from speaking and then I told her it was “traditional American culture.” (Any sort of different culture thing can be explained away if I say this.)

Just a small smattering of texts I got from students. Notice the water references…








“Wear More Clothes”

I have to remember to take deep breaths when a student says this too me because the first thing I want to shout is, “YOU DON’T THINK I KNOW HOW TO DRESS MYSELF?!” They are just saying it to be caring and considerate, but this one really pisses me off. Xiamen is quite hot. It’s still short-sleeve weather, and I was wearing a long sleeve button-down shirt when I ran into a student who told me to “wear more clothes.” I was sweating, drips of sweat literally running down my face and I said, “Oh really? I should put on more clothes despite the fact I’m sweating so much?!” I know it’s just something to say, like “get more rest,” but as an American it often feels like an insult. As if some 20-year-old punk knows what to do better than me.

“Weather is Changeable”

This is the most common reason I hear of “why” I got sick. It’s fall so  “weather is changeable” is a common refrain. Sometimes I just grind my teeth and put on a fake smile but every now and then I lose it and kinda freak out and say, “Changeable weather cannot give me a germ. Students who don’t cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough, or pick their noses and then hand me papers are the reason I’m sick! Or the people spitting just a few inches from where I am standing, or the people that shoot snot rockets. Not the goddamn weather!” Seriously, their sense of hygiene is totally wack here.

So I appreciate the sentiment from my students and friends, but next time I get a cold? I’m keeping it to myself.



Categories: China, Chinese Culture | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Go Check Out my Guest Post


My guest post on Lind’as blog. Go read it!

So I wrote a guest post over at Linda Living in China blog. I had read another one of her guest posts, (about a girl learning Chinese by traveling by herself) and I realized that one of my best methods of learning Chinese was dating Chinese guys. I actually wrote the article for my blog, but seeing as it was Linda’s blog that inspired me I e-mailed her to ask if she wanted a guest post. She did and hopefully she’ll be writing one for my blog too.

So far the comments seem to misunderstand my intention. I was just writing about dating from a language acquisition point of view, but some people thought I was writing about my entire dating philosophy. For the record I don’t date Chinese guys for the sole purpose of learning the language. There has to be attraction and interest first, and let’s face it, THAT’S the hard part. I don’t fall for every Chinese speaking guy I meet. In fact, it’s quite rare.

So anyway, go on over to her website and check it out! Linda’s blog is also really interesting. She lives and works in China but has a Korean boyfriend, so somehow she manages to juggle three cultures and three languages. Not bad.

Categories: China, Dating, Writing | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Maybe Sometimes I make Living in China Sound too Easy

This summer, when I was in America, a lot of people said a lot of nice things about me. They said they admired me for living in China, or they thought I was so brave or cool, for making this strange country my new home. And that’s nice to hear but I’m not deluded enough to actually believe it, because I know the truth.

Since I have no shame, I’m going to pull back the curtain. Just to show my life isn’t so cool and I’m not nearly as bad ass as you think. Things are easier than when I first arrived but I wouldn’t say I’m flawlessly living my life everyday.

Here’s a little story to prove my point…

I was on my way to Walmart which is located in the bottom level of a mall. There was a little restaurant in the mall too, and I wanted to eat something quick. It was a little noodle/rice place, pretty typical.

I walk in, hold up one finger and say “yi wei,” which means one person.

She holds up one finger and says “yi tiao?” Now, I don’t know what the heck ‘tiao’ means but I just nod anyway. (That’s my favorite trick here, just nod and eventually you get something.)

She shouts “yi tiao!” to the waitress who picks up something wrapped in a plastic bag, grabs a few napkins, and puts it in front of me. It’s some sort of wrapped roll, like a spring roll but not fried. Inside was veggies and it was pretty good. But, I’m kinda confused at why I got it. Is it some sort of appetizer? Is it free? Did I accidentally order it?

I finish pretty quick, but I’m not sure if I’m expected to order anything else. The waitress didn’t come back, but I decided to play with my phone until other customers came in, just to see. A few college kids came in within a few minutes, sat down and didn’t get this spring roll. It wasn’t some sort of freebie appetizer.

So, I kinda looked around, decided to just stand up and go to the cash register. The owner met me there and I paid a few kuai for what I had eaten (about .60US), then I left, really confused. I really have no idea why she assumed I wanted that. Do other foreigners go there only for the spring roll? Or is there one blond foreigner that goes there for the spring roll and she assumed I was her?

Who knows. I’ll never know why I got that random spring roll and that’s kinda life in China. Even though I’m fluent, even though I have lived here for more than 5 years, I don’t know what’s going on half the time. I’ve got it figured out enough to get what I need, even if it’s not exactly what I want (I needed to eat, but I probably wouldn’t have ordered the spring roll).

And that’s okay. If I wanted a comfortable easy life I would have stayed in america. I don’t care that I have awkward situations, or feel confused often. In fact, I kinda like it. It keeps you on your toes and ensures life is never boring. So thanks for the compliments this summer you guys, I’m just sad to tell you it’s not true and I am as awkward and clumsy in China as I was in America. Ha!


Categories: China, Traveling | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment