Ultimate Frisbee in China

Ultimate frisbee in ChinaFrom time to time you’ve seen me talk about Ultimate Frisbee on my blog. I talked about playing Frisbee in my fit life, and I went on about how Frisbee is gonna kill us alllllllll.

Despite not actually playing a game (I’m too scared after it took not four weeks like I thought, but four months for my leg to recover) I go to practice at least once a week, and go to every tournament. And from my view I’m getting to watch the explosion of Ultimate Frisbee in China.

For those of you that don’t know what Ultimate Frisbee is, it’s a legit sport, though a fledgling one. Usually just called Ultimate (due to the proprietary name of Frisbee) It’s recognized by most major sports organizations and they are applying to be accepted in the 2020 Olympics. It started in America in the 60’s and is similar to other field sports like soccer or football. The objective is to have someone from your team catch the frisbee in your end-zone for a point. When you are holding the frisbee you cannot move (only pivot with one leg) and have to throw it to advance it. If you drop the frisbee, or the other team manages to steal it, the “possession” of the frisbee switches to the other team. Teams are co-ed with equal numbers of guys and girls on each team. (Though there are some special ‘women only’ tournaments from time to time.)

My team member Deng making a catch at the recent beach tournament in Xiamen.

Xiamen team member Deng making a catch at our recent beach tournament.

One unique aspect of frisbee is there is no referee. The game is totally self-monitored with the team calling fouls or rule enforcement. What can I say? This is a game that has it’s roots in hippie culture of the 60’s so there is a bit of peace, love and “good sportsmanship” worked into it.

And maybe that’s why I like it so much. While quite competitive in the US, it’s just getting a foothold here in China. That makes a big difference in everyone’s attitude. As no one grew up playing this sport, or groomed themselves for the pro leagues, everyone is so welcoming. The star players have only been playing for a few years, and the person that is just picking up the frisbee for the first time, could be a MVP player one year later, so everyone is encouraging.

Ultimate Frisbee in China

And after being a part of the team for the past year I have seen huge changes in Xiamen that I think speak for the wider China Ultimate community at large. When I first started playing it was mostly for fun. A way to play a game and get a little sweaty on the weekends. But everyone began to get a little serious and practice began starting a few hours earlier to give time for drills. Then an evening practice was added. More people joined. Team members began working out in their free time, and Bailu team pride became stronger and stronger. (Bailuzhou park is where we practice. Bailu means egrets which is the symbol of Xiamen and therefore our team name.)

Team Bailu!

Team Bailu!

It’s not just Xiamen, in cities all across China things are also heating up. According to a recent article written by my friend Keelan, (he plays in Fuzhou, Xiamen’s neighboring city, so I see him regularly) he says there is a 100% increase in participation across China every year. I’ve seen that in Xiamen for sure, There are easily twice as many regular players as there was a year ago.

Because it is a foreign sport, and relatively new, foreigners have kind of been at the forefront of Ultimate in China. Most Chinese who have been playing for awhile originally learned about it from a foreigner. And the teams with the most foreigners (like Shanghai) still have the highest level of play due to the large amount of people who have been playing the game for decades.

Even the captain of our team, Will, an American, admitted that if the foreigners stopped playing or encouraging others to play our team would have fallen apart as short as a year and a half ago. Now, no longer. While our captain and coach are foreigners, the most passionate and outspoken players are Chinese. It would continue and improve even if all the foreigners left. In fact, a few of the younger college-aged team members have started their own school clubs for Ultimate. And our youngest teammate, Jack, only 13-years-old has gotten his classmates and gym teacher to come to the park a few times to learn the basics. These guys are now growing up with Ultimate in a way no one in China has been able to before.

Ultimate Frisbee in China

And there are more and more chances to play Ultimate. In Xiamen we had our first tournament last fall, then we had two more including the most recent Xiamen Beach Tournament which will be a new annual event (Xiamen is perfectly suited for a beach tournament). Other tournaments Bailu players have gone to this year are: Ningbo, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Shenzhen and in a few weeks they are going to Malaysia to play. This many tournaments in China would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago.

Even the tournaments are welcoming. Ultimate has something called a hat tournament. Instead of established teams, anyone can sign up including complete newbies. Then their names are thrown into a “hat” and teams are made of strangers. (Okay, these days it’s not a literal hat. Organizers make up teams based on skill level so every team has a few newbies, middle and expert players.) It’s a really nice, really welcoming way to get more people interested to play. Two of the tournaments in Xiamen have been hat tournaments.

And need I talk about how damn nice everyone is? Probably not because I think you got my point already, but despite not being a player they never make me feel left out or not included. The supportive, deep bonds that are forged during the weekly practices last far beyond the field and no birthday or special event goes by without the teams support. One team member recently got married and several people attended wearing our team shirt. And not just with the Xiamen team, but from players all over China. At tournaments I’ve made friends with people from all over China. The initial bond is Frisbee, but the friendships go far beyond.

Ultimate frisbee in Xiamen

So, while I’m not a player, I am a devotee to the sport. And the reason? Because Ultimate players in China are so damn nice. Being a part of the Ultimate community in China is more than just a team, but a family. It’s an exciting time to see a sport take hold and really start to grow in China, and from the sidelines in Xiamen, I’ve got a front row seat.

(As it is the end of the year, several players are leaving to go back to their home countries. So the captains made a video to commemorate the leaving members time with us and showed it at the party during our recent beach tournament. Then they recorded our reaction to watching the video and made THIS video with the audio from the party. It’s one of those moments when you feel nostalgic for the moment you are still in the middle of. Sorry, it’s on Youku, the Chinese youtube, so you might have to watch some really annoying Chinese ads for a few seconds first. If someone adds it to youtube, I’ll attach that video instead.)

 

Categories: China, Chinese Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer Break Can’t Come Soon Enough!

The real-feel has been hovering between 105-115. And it's not even summer yet!! *cry, cry, cry*

The real-feel has been hovering between 105-115. And it’s not even summer yet!! *cry, cry, cry*

So remember when I said I hate Xiamen? I hate it even more now. It’s SOOOOOOOOOO friggin hot.

I walk around wearing a sweat band, and I don’t do it in an ironic Wes Anderson-type way. I wear it because my face sweats so much that if I try to wipe it with my hand, my hand is covered in so much water I need to wipe my hand on something (usually my clothes) which then makes them wet.

Speaking of wet clothes, that’s another problem. I’m actually worried I’m gonna grow moss on my body because I have wet clothes on my body for hours at a time. I change them as much as I can, up to 3 times a day, but if I’m out for hours I got no choice and just have to live in clothes that look like I got caught in a rainstorm. It’s not cool when you can wring out your clothes and that water came from your sweat glands.

And I’m pretty sure I won’t have many friends left after summer. Remember that my friends call me “bacon Becky” because my face gets so red? Well, that was in May. It’s worse now. And not only that but I have zero sense of humor now. Several of us met for a Sunday brunch a few weeks ago and everyone was late. In a group chat I was just yelling at them, telling them to hurry up and sending all sorts of violent animated gifs. My one friend said she would arrive soon and told everyone else not to worry, she’d handle “cranky Becky.”

I have a feeling that cranky is one of the nicest words they use to describe me. I don’t want to know what they call me when I’m not around. But I don’t blame them. On the red dress run, after a few hours, my friends were playing around with a bottle of water, trying to splash each other. I wasn’t paying attention, or involved, when I got a bottle of water thrown all over me. I had spent all day with special sweat-wicking clothes, sweat bands and other techniques to keep me as dry as possible and I ended up with water all over my shirt and bag?! I freaked out.

This is my hair after an hour and a half in class. It was all neat and tidy before I left the house, but at some point it just exploded. I don't know if it happens slowly, or at some point my hair just "boings" and my students see it fly out in all directions. Either way, not cool, hair. Not cool.

This is my hair after an hour-and-a-half in class. It was all neat and tidy before I left the house, but it just exploded. I don’t know if it happens slowly, or at some point my hair just “boings” and my students see it fly out in all directions. Either way, not cool, hair. Not cool.

But instead of yelling and complaining I just went ice cold and walked by myself for awhile. Everyone could tell I was super pissed and a few tried to cheer me up, delicately coming up to me and asking if they could do anything for me. “I just want to walk by myself,” I said through clenched teeth. It wasn’t that I was even so mad. I was just ready to be in a bad mood and it set me off and I remembered that I hate everyone and everything That’s kinda what happens to me when I’m hot.

And remember, it’s not even technically summer yet.

So thank god this is my last week of classes. I think it’s better that I get out of here while I can to save my sanity, my body and my friendships.

So where to go? Well, China is a lot like America climate-wise. Of course I’m gonna go north, but even so it can be quite hot in July and August.

So I’m going north and up. In an attempt to get a cooler place I’m gonna head for higher elevation. I’m gonna start in Xi’an, and head west, following the old “Silk Road” of China and end up in Xinjiang.

The legendary trade route known as the Silk Road

The legendary trade route known as the Silk Road

Xinjiang is one of those parts of China that doesn’t act like the rest of the country. The people are Uighur, a ethnic minority that is more related to middle eastern cultures than Chinese (in both appearance and culture). They worship at mosques, eat a totally different kind of food and live in a dry, mountainous region that is supposed to be stunning.

And yes, while it is gonna be hot as hell, it should hopefully be a dry heat, which I can handle easier. Also, with low humidity, nights should be cool. And if you know otherwise, please don’t tell me. I like the delusion I’m telling myself.

One funny feature of Xinjiang is the time difference. China, while approximately the same size as America, runs on only one time zone: Beijing time. But Xinjiang is far west as California is from New York, so when the sun is rising over Beijing at 6am, it is still 2-3 hours below the horizon in Xinjiang. I heard official institutions, like banks and such, run on Beijing time, but the shops and other local things run on “Xinjiang time” which is about 2 hours after Beijing time. We’ll see how confusing that is.

 

I cannot wait to eat the delicious nang bread that is common all over Xinjiang.

I cannot wait to eat the delicious nang bread that is common all over Xinjiang.

Anyway, I won’t leave for a few more weeks, but dreaming and planning my trip is making this heat just a little bit more bearable. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to sweat in front of students for awhile…er, teach, I mean, i have to go teach.

Categories: China, Traveling | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Red Dress Hash House Harrier Walk! (Say that 5 times fast.)

I’ve written about the Hash House Harriers and I’ve been doing the walk with some regularity (maybe once a month, though they now have walked 2-3 times per month).

But this weekend was a special walk, it was the “Red Dress Hash.” The Red Dress run is a Hash House Harrier unique tradition. It dates back to 1987. (Ancient history. *cough*) A woman was visiting her friend. Her friend decided to bring her to this “wacky running group” in southern California. The woman was wearing a red dress and heels and the Hash organizers told her to just wait in the car for her friend since she obviously couldn’t run. But run she did.

Kinda as a joke, the hashers sent a plane ticket back to the red dress woman one year later. In honor of her return, everyone wore a red dress. Hundreds attended, wearing dresses, and the woman suggested that it become a charity event.

And a tradition was born.

Red Dress Hashes are held in every city all over the world (though not at the same time). And each group chooses their own charity. The Xiamen Hash chose a local private school for poor kids to help.

But really, the charity part is overshadowed by the red dresses. Because everyone should wear them, including the guys. (No, I didn’t wear it. I wore a red shirt and just normal sports pants. I hate dresses and not even peer pressure can change that.)

Actually I wasn’t the only girl not wearing a dress. There were plenty of girls in pants, and yet, almost every guy decided to wear a dress. They barely needed any encouragement. Then someone passed out balloons to “fill out” the dresses. The guys not only wore them, but seemed to specially enjoy it. The Hash is best seen through pictures, rather than my description so here’s a little peek into the Red Dress Run:

You can see the guys really enjoyed wearing dresses.

You can see the guys really enjoyed wearing dresses.

I thought I'd help the guys feel what it is really like to be a woman. So I sexually harassed them.

I thought I’d help the guys feel what it is really like to be a woman. So I sexually harassed them.

A normal hash run has about 30 people. You can see how many more people came to this special event. (This is us doing the warm up exercise.)

A normal hash run has about 30 people. You can see how many more people came to this special event. (This is us doing the warm up exercise.)

A curious local popped his head over the fence to watch us. With so many people in red dresses (and so many men) we got a lot of attention wherever we went.

A curious local popped his head over the fence to watch us warm-up. With so many people in red dresses (and so many men) we got a lot of attention wherever we went.

At our first beer stop (the hash has breaks for beer) the other girls did my hair. First into pigtails and then little buns.

At our first beer stop (the hash has breaks for beer) the other girls did my hair. First into pigtails and then little buns. Not just me, but all the girls. Even some of the guys.

Red Dress girls!

Red Dress girls!

After our first break, we headed into the mountains. As Tim (one f the hares said) a Xiamen hash isn't a hash without a mountain. I was less than happy because while it was a cloudy day, it was crazy humid and I was super sweaty as it was.

After our first break, we headed into the mountains. As Tim (one of the hares) said, “A Xiamen hash isn’t a hash without a mountain.” I was less than happy because while it was a cloudy day, it was crazy humid and I was super sweaty as it was.

We had a "hold" (a short break to let everyone catch up) at the top of the mountain. Had some spectacular views.

We had a “hold” (a short break to let everyone catch up) at the top of the mountain. Had some spectacular views.

Despite the huge group, I managed to break free for awhile in the mountains and had a few blissful minutes by myself in nature. Those buildings in the background are kinda new, iconic buildings in Xiamen. They are still being built, but I have a feeling they will be a symbol if Xiamen soon. For some reason I really like them.

Despite the huge group, I managed to break free for awhile in the mountains and had a few blissful minutes by myself in nature. Those buildings in the background are kinda new, iconic buildings in Xiamen. They are still being built, but I have a feeling they will be a symbol of Xiamen soon. For some reason I really like them.

At the end we circled up on the beach. We started an ended at the same place (called an A-A hash). The place was a beach club that holds a lot of cool events (like the crafts fair.) A friend even had a birthday party there and we played beach volleyball and just relaxed. It's a great place and a good place to end the hash.

At the end we circled up on the beach. We started an ended at the same place (called an A-A hash). The place was a beach club that holds a lot of cool events (like the crafts fair). A friend even had a birthday party there and we played beach volleyball and just relaxed. It’s a great place and a good place to end the hash.

I think this is the last hash for me for awhile. It’s just too damn hot. Even though it was cloudy and windy, I still ended the day hot, cranky with a major headache. In fact, the following day I was supposed to go to a cafe to write and I decided to just stay at home writing. I just didn’t have it in me to go outside and sweat through more clothes. I’m officially over the heat of the Xiamen summer. And it’s only the beginning of June. I am screwed…

Anyway, on a lighter note, it was quite fun. It was a good walk and I got to meet a bunch of new people. Hashers have groups in most places so if you have an opportunity to take part in a red dress hash, make sure to do it!

Categories: China | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Weird Thing About Being a Female Blogger That Dates Asian Men

So I was a little hesitant to write this blog post because it seems a bit braggy. But objectively, it is an interesting (and unexpected) part of blogging, and it’s been happening so much to me lately, I thought I would address it.

It’s not secret I date Chinese guys. I talk/write about it all the time. And somewhere along the way, I think a website, or something, has picked me up and advertised that fact. Like, at a virtual toilet for asian men someone wrote “for a good time, e-mail Becky” on the stall.

And the e-mails are super bizarre. Usually written in poor english (or translated through a program) the e-mails tell me nothing about them, only a hello and then a proposal. Usually along the “will you be my girlfriend” lines.

Emails

This guy writes to me regularly. Maybe every 2 weeks I get the same question. Nothing more, nothing less.

I thought all these guys found me through my blog. But then several have asked me to be their girlfriend followed by a “how tall are you?” or “can you send me a picture.” If they actually saw my blog, they would know what I look like, and see my (relative) height. Lord knows I’m not shy about putting pictures up. So when they ask that I know they HAVEN’T seen me. Which is even odder.

I mean, I know this blog is personal in nature. And I share a lot. But this blog is just a tiny part of me. Unless you’re my friend in Xiamen you don’t know what it is like to spend a night with me. You don’t know what I like/dislike (besides the horrible weather) or how I act around others or treat my friends. You don’t even know my guy situation since I don’t mention it much on my blog.

Asian Men

No, you can’t get my number. Sorry.

So why would anybody want to be my boyfriend without getting to know me? My vanity would like to believe it is because I’m so drop dead gorgeous bubbling over with stellar personality, but I’m not that vain I know the truth. I’m a white woman who likes asians. A slightly rare breed. And as such, it seems like I attract any Tom, Dick and Chen that wants a foreign girlfriend.

But those are exactly the guys I don’t want to be around. Not just guys, but girls too. I hate when people want to “be my friend” so they can “practice their english.” If you are a foreigner in China reading this, I know you are nodding your head in agreeance. This is a common problem we all share. People want to be around us just because we are foreigners.

But I don’t want a friend who only likes me for my nationality or blond hair. I want a friend who likes me for me. I get that some people are attracted to foreigners, our different ways of thinking and our desire to travel. In America I was always happy and excited to meet and befriend foreigners simply because I knew we had one thing in common: a love of travel and open-mindedness about other cultures and places.

 

Asian Men

My Chinese friends in Hangzhou and Xiamen all fit that bill. They aren’t just running around dying to meet a foreigner. Our friendships started naturally. We talk, find we have things in common, spend more time together and voila! Soon we are friends.

In fact, there is one girl who is desperate to break into one of my friend groups. She always asks everyone what they are doing? And can she come? And can she be friends? I mean, she’s nice enough, but she clearly has no interest in any of our personalities. It’s very clear from the way she acts. Desperate to have a group of foreigners while not actually caring about any of us beyond the “prestige” we can bring her.

And that’s how I feel about a girl. When a guy does it it is even a bigger turn-off. I’ve had more than a few guys ask if I can be their girlfriend and when I say no they immediately say, “so can you introduce me to your other single foreign female friends?” No. Helllllllllll no.

Asian Men

I wrote back to this guy curious at “my profile” hoping this would solve the mystery of where these guys hear about me. Turned out he meant the “about me” page on my blog.

And that’s the baffling thing about these emails I get. Aside from one very thoughtful and well-written e-mail most guys don’t even introduce themselves or say anything besides “will you be my girlfriend?” Who would ever do that? I’ve been offered trips to Beijing, Shandong and even Las Vegas just to meet these guys that I know virtually nothing about. Would any girl travel to meet a guy she doesn’t know?! That’s crazy unsafe. Do they think I am so desperate to find someone, or the fact that I like asians means I’ll be into any asian regardless of personality?!

Well, I’m not, on both accounts. While I appreciate the sentiment let me save you the trouble of writing me an e-mail. No, I don’t want to be your girlfriend. No I am not looking for a husband. Find someone near you, in your area. And get to know them as a person, not as a foreigner. That’s the best way to find a foreign girlfriend.

Asian men

These are most (but not all) of the e-mails I got in just May. I get about 2-3 new ones a week. It’s a bizarre result of blogging.

 

Categories: China, Dating | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Suddenly I Hate Xiamen

See the temperature? Not so bad, right? Well, notice the "real-feel" is more than 10 degrees hotter. That is ALL humidity. It's the kind of weather where your sunglasses fog all the time and you drip sweat even if you sit in the shade unmoving. Truly the worst kind of weather. (And this picture was taken at 8:30AM and it was already this hot!

See the temperature? Not so bad, right? Well, notice the “real-feel” is more than 10 degrees hotter. That is ALL humidity. It’s the kind of weather where your sunglasses fog all the time and you drip sweat even if you sit in the shade unmoving. Truly the worst kind of weather. (And this picture was taken at 8:30AM and it was already this hot! It was over 100 before noon.)

So you know how I was living in this bubble of perfect days, with perfect friends and perfect food and perfect fun?

Well, that bubble just popped.

No, my friends are still fun and amazing, the food is off-the-charts delicious and everyday has a million fun activities. But now I don’t want to do anything because of the GODDAMN HEAT!! It’s like somebody flipped the switch from “mild and pleasant” to “hot humid hell.”

And I just fall apart in humidity. Always have. My face turns beet red even if I am not exerting myself. And it stays red long past the point of normalcy. I get a lot of concerned “are you alright? Your face is so red!” comments in this heat. It’s embarrassing.

And there is more than just a cosmetic problem, but an actual health danger. I get heat stroke quite easily. Once I get hot, even if I get into a cool room, my body can’t cool itself down properly and I’ll end up puking or pooping from the heat. I’m most worried about this in the classroom. With 100 degree temps and no a/c, 2 simple classes can turn into a 4-hour endurance test.

I have gotten heat stroke before from teaching in such hot temps. With only 4 weeks of class left, I’m crossing my fingers I can make it before the temperature is too high.

Because that’s the problem, it’s not even summer yet! And already I’m falling apart! The actual temperature isn’t even that high, but with major humidity the “real-feel” temp is almost 10 degrees hotter. My body just pours buckets of sweat out of my pores. My clothes sop up most of it, but my face is left on it’s own. It actually sweats so much that it drips off my face and I didn’t even know it. (Lovely picture eh?) And yes, this is happening now. And yes, I dripped on a student today.

It’s not even normal “hot” here. Only those who have lived in the swamps of Florida could probably understand. This is the kind of heat that after your clothes dry there is actual salt rings left on them. That salt being your body salt. And that can be as little as two hours after you left your house. And wet, you are wet all the time. Your shirts become soaked and the waist band of your pants get so wet it takes hours for it to dry. And with air conditioning not available in many places, and having to walk everywhere and the buses being a sauna (they don’t start the air conditioners until June 1st and even then it is up to the “drivers discretion” and I’m pretty sure they are told not to use it to save money because the buses are usually saunas.) it doesn’t take very long to be totally soaked.

And then there is my mood. Let’s just say that when my body is overheating, my hair frizzing out and buckets of water are pouring out of my body, I’m not all rainbows and sunshine. I’m a cranky, whiny son of a bitch. If I know I have to be outside for a certain amount of time, I can handle it. But the second I am expecting to be inside with a/c I better be inside with a/c or you will not hear the end of it.

Bacon Becky. While other people got red faces from climbing a mountain, I was the only one to keep my red face after our long break. Once it gets red, it takes forever to go back. Even a cold shower won't fix it.

While other people got red faces from climbing a mountain, I was the only one to keep my red face after our long break. Once it gets red, it takes forever to go back. Even a cold shower won’t fix it. “Bacon Becky” was born.

Last weekend I was out all weekend for a ultimate Frisbee tournament. One day at the beach, one day in an outdoor stadium. I expected to be out all weekend, I dealt with it, but the second it was over on the last day I tromped home and pushed a cute kitty out of the way my friend was petting. (We have a kitty living in our building that is kind of a group pet.) As I stormed past I heard my friend say to the other, “She just needs her air conditioner.” And the funny thing is the friend that knew that about me is one of my newer friends. She has only known me since winter, when the weather was nice, and hasn’t seen me in ‘summer mode’ before. But I have been complaining about hot weather for the entire winter so even she knows.

And speaking of friends, mine aren’t helping that much. We took a hike up a mountain recently for our Hash walk. It was 700+ steps straight up. The day wasn’t too hot, but sunny with a good dose of humidity, and with all the exertion my face turned bright red again. And then my ‘darling’ friends gave me a nickname: Bacon Becky.

When I exert myself in the winter, I get a kind of cute, red flush. My body likes being cold, and when it is cold outside (or no humidity I should say) my body is so happy to be active. I barely sweat, but warm up nicely and get a rosy, healthy glow. But summer it all goes wrong. The cute rosy glow turns to Armageddon on my face. My hair tries to flee my scalp in all directions and conversations consist almost entirely of me reminding everyone how hot I am.

So for the hot summer months I’m going to be hiding in my room with the air conditioner cranked very high. Hope I still have friends when I emerge next winter!

This is me after climbing a mountain in winter. Flushed rosy, red cheeks, hair that falls naturally down. Totally fine, like a normal human being.

This is me after climbing a mountain in winter. Flushed rosy, red cheeks, hair that falls naturally down. Totally fine, like a normal human being.

This is me after climbing a mountain in summer. Hair going everywhere, pores open, and a shade of red more resembling Elmo than an actual human.

This is me after climbing a mountain in summer. Hair going everywhere, pores open, and a shade of red more resembling Elmo than an actual human. At least I entertain people as they all laugh at me!

Categories: China | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

I’m on a Podcast

badge_ChinaOMG, I was interviewed and now I’m officially on a podcast! I haven’t been brave enough to listen to it, but hopefully you don’t hate hearing my voice as much as I do, so feel free to have a listen.

It was supposed to be a quick half-hour interview but Stefan (the host) and I ended up chatting forever. Like, hours. Time just flew by. Of course I was nervous, but we got along really well, and honestly, it is always nice to talk to another expat who kinda “gets” living in China. We had a lot of similarities and could talk about things that others might not understand, and we had really similar feelings about things.

Anyway, we talked so much that 30-minutes wasn’t enough and he ended up making it TWO episodes! Holy cow.

Here’s the first one

Here’s the second one

Also, more good news I was recently picked as featured blog on Inernations.org! Internations is a website for expats all over the world to connect with each other, and a place to learn and answer questions and such. They have a special section just for China and they interviewed me as a featured blogger! Anyway, it is super cool and really nice they wanted to do it. So check that out too! Click here. 

Besides that, things are going great. So busy it’s been hard to fit in blog-writing time. The temps are really starting to soar here in Xiamen, which I am not a fan of, but things keep forcing me outside all day so I have to deal with the heat. (Heat rant is coming up in another blog post.)

We played on the beach which was so fun but also so hot!

We had an Ultimate Frisbee tournament on the beach. It was so fun but also so hot!

 

Hope your having a good spring/summer! And hope wherever you are it is cooler than here!

Categories: China, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Going to the American Embassy

The American embassy in Shanghai is located in this shopping mall. There is nothing on the outside to indicate it is an embassy at all. No American flag, or big sign. Just a totally normal looking mall. But flashing my passport got me into the mall before shopping hours to go upstairs.

The American embassy in Shanghai is located in this shopping mall. There is nothing on the outside to indicate it is an embassy at all. No American flag, or big sign. Just a totally normal looking mall. But flashing my passport got me into the mall before shopping hours to go upstairs.

I’ve been to more than 20 countries and have lived outside America for more than 7 years total in my life, and yet I have never found the need to go to an American embassy. Luckily I have never been in a place with political turmoil in which I needed to be rescued, nor been arrested. But amazingly I’ve never even had a petty bureaucratic problem until now.

You see, my passport is totally filled up. It’s not even an old passport, I got it right before I came to China. But to get my residence permit every year I need two blank, facing pages. And that is something I don’t have anymore.

Luckily, Americans can get pages added to their visa (for now. They will end this program at the end of the year.) It costs $82 and according to the website takes only 30 minutes with an appointment. (You need to book one ahead of time via their website.)

The hilarious (iroinc?) thing is the United States Embassy in Shanghai is located in a mall. Yep, a mall. Gucci and fro-yo on the bottom floors, embassy on the top. Oh sure, I think they have one of those fortress-like buildings somewhere in Shanghai that could protect me if I needed it, but they don’t do the visas and such there. Instead, you go to the mall.

Walking in with an American passport made me feel like a boss. Like everywhere in China there were millions of people waiting in line, but I got to go to the front, no questions asked. Just flashed my passport and locked doors were literally opened for me.

I’ve been to the Chinese embassy in New York City, and they make you turn off your phone (they watch you as you do it.) But America went one step further and took away all my toys. My phone, my kindle, my battery charger, the cord I charge my phone with and a USB the x-ray turned up hidden in my bag. It sucks because you end up waiting for a bit and have nothing to distract you.

There are two sections at the embassy. One, a giant room snaked with lines and many windows for Chinese trying to get a visa to America. Total chaos. Then there is a little room for American’s who need passport services. Only 4 windows (one of which was the cashiers) and seats for you to wait.

It took forever for me to get to the window. With no kindle to while away the time I just sat and listened to everyone else’s problems. I listened to the one ABC guy as he explained (in a pitch perfect California accent) how he lost his passport yet again,

“Well, see, I was drinking. And it was in my bag. And, ya know…”

“Sir, I see this is your 3rd replacement passport,” said the embassy guy.

“Well, yeah, I keep losing them.”

I also had to listen to the American dad with his Chinese wife and trying to fill out an application for their young baby to get citizenship. Of course you are supposed to have your application totally filled out by the time you arrive but this guy had some few questions.

“I couldn’t finish the application because I have a few questions. Where it says address, what do I put?”

“Your address sir.”

“Okay, I see.” He was quiet for a moment as he filled it out. “And here where it says relationship to applicant I say father of the child?”

“Yep,” said the woman very patiently.

“And here where it says phone number I put…”

“Your phone number.”

It was tedious as hell. He hadn’t filled out a single line in the paperwork himself and he stood at the window doing it line-by-line. There was only one window open and this guy set us all back a good 15 minutes.

There was also a window for notary services which wasn’t very busy. An old man, with dirty jeans and his white hair covered by a trucker-style cap, took the opportunity to talk to the woman behind the counter about “when I first came to China 20 years ago…”

I also watched several people raise their right arm and “swear” they told the whole truth for whatever service they were getting. (The dude with the lost passport had to swear it was stolen, and not sold.)

As for my issue, it was over in a second. I handed in my (totally filled out) application, had to pay a fee (interesting thing was the accepted visa/mastercard but not unionpay, the Chinese credit card company), and waited fifteen minutes till I got it back.

They just stitched in the pages, they are a lighter blue then the rest, and now my passport isn’t as pretty as it used to be, but it’s not a problem. Overall I was impressed with the efficiency of the embassy and rate it higher than other American bureaucracy like the DMV. It was much more efficient.

And now I have so many new pages, guess I’ll have to start traveling to fill them up!

My passport is now twice as thick! Ready for travel!

My passport is now twice as thick! Ready for travel!

Categories: China, Traveling | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Thought on Aging (with a Babyface)

Rebecca and I (who you have seen in past blog posts), were born the same chinese zodiac, only 12 years apart.

Rebecca and I (who you have seen in past blog posts), were born the same chinese zodiac, only 12 years apart.

My whole life, age has been a problem. Not because I wish for my youth or long for the days when I was smooth skinned and young looking. It’s the exact opposite. I have always looked young for my age. In high school, people thought I was in middle school. In college, they thought I was in high school, after graduation, they STILL thought I was in high school, and now people think I am a student or just graduated college.

“Oh, how lucky,” I hear many of you think. But no. You’re wrong. It is not at all lucky. Just think about it. You are a 28-year-old professional reporter and someone asks you, “why aren’t you in high school right now?” It negates your years of experience and hard work. Or the look of surprise when someone you have only dealt with on the phone sees you for the first time and their estimation of you drops. Suddenly, this person who treated you as an equal on the phone starts responding to your suggestions with a patronizing, “isn’t that a cute idea,” or “that’s a great little project.”

And then there is the five-minute conversation I have had again and again since my teens. “You’re how old?! No way. I don’t believe it. Oh my god! You look so much younger. Did you know you look so much younger?” Yes. Yes I know. (Of course that is better than the conversations where the other person refuses to believe you and thinks you are pulling a joke on them.)

I used to work my age into every conversation. Trying to get it out there early, so people would treat me age-appropriately as an experienced worker, not an intern. But blurting out your age is strange, especially in America where we tend not to ask. So my age interjections would always come off as awkward, and made me look more like the kid I was trying to distance myself from.

Zo and I look [pretty much the same age. But actually we are 15 years apart!

Zoe and I look pretty much the same age. But actually we are 15 years apart!

And as I get older, I feel like sometimes I am robbed out of aging experiences that my peers have. In general my friends are younger so I can’t gossip about “waking up with neck pain,” or any of the common problems of aging. Also, when I DO talk about aging my friends kind of discredit my experiences. Because I’m “not really” my age. Or, because I’m young looking and therefore my experience of aging is different than what they’ve heard. (Although honestly I think a lot of my high school and college classmates look younger than our age.)

The only person who every really “got me” was a woman in my hometown. When she found out my age instead of saying “wow, you look so young,” she looked at me with a wry voice and said “do you still hate it or have you started to play with it yet.”

“Still hate it,” I said. But she gave me a little hope that maybe, someday in the future, I wouldn’t totally hate it. And I think that time is slowly arriving. I’ve begun kinda fucking with my age. Dating is the obvious place to lie. I settled on 29 being a good general age for me. I once got away with 25, but then I had to lose too much of my actual history so 29 is a good sweet spot.

My bestie in Shanghai is almost 10 years younger than me. At his last birthday party I joked he is finally catching up with me.

My bestie in Shanghai is almost 10 years younger than me. At his last birthday party I joked he is finally catching up with me in age.

 

I also lie to the aunties on the street. They are the most troublesome, asking me a million questions and when they find out my age, and that I’m not married, they freak out and talk about every single guy they know (“My friend who owns a noodle shop has a nice boy.”) It’s very annoying, so I either lie about being married or my age.

With this more “fluid” age even my friends get confused. “How old are you again?” is a question I get from my good friends regularly. And they like to mess with me too. A few times I have told a new friend my age. “Bullshit!” they say. “Ask anyone,” I say. They then ask my friends how old I am and my friends say “29” and laugh uproariously at their joke, but meanwhile the new person believes them and not me!

My friend Ray and I are almost the same age. Just 6-months apart.

My friend Ray and I are almost the same age. Just 6-months apart.

And one of the worst parts is, I can’t see it. I can’t look in the mirror at myself and see any age. I see the wrinkles, I see the pimples, but I don’t see age. So I have no idea what people are talking about.

I know this whole post might come off as seeming a bit braggy, because people refuse to believe that looking young is a bad thing. We live in a youth obsessed culture, how could it be bad, right?! But it is. I have, without a doubt, missed professional opportunities and have had a harder time in general. When I hear the words “you look so young!” I don’t feel happy or proud. In fact, I seethe a little bit.

Here’s hoping that when I’m 50 I’ll be happy about it.

me and the boy in the middle have a whooping 25 year age difference. Yes, he looks quite old for his age, but I could literally be his mom and it wouldn't even be that weird.

me and the boy in the middle have a whooping 25 year age difference. Yes, he looks quite old for his age, but I could literally be his mom and it wouldn’t even be that weird. I’m 5 years older than the other girl in the picture. 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

Going “Home”

After six years in China (and 12 holidays in which to travel) I finally filled up my passport. Even the last two “endorsement” pages is filled with visas, stamps and residence permits. Before the school can re-hire me I have to get more pages added.  (Fun fact: Americans will no longer be able to add pages to their passports by the end of 2015. So if you need pages, add them quick. Starting 2016 you’ll have to get a new passport entirely when your pages run out.)

So I have to go to the embassy to do it. I could go to Hong Kong, as that embassy is closest. But is it the most fun? No. Shanghai would be the most fun for me. And with friday being a national holiday, and with me having to cancel class anyway for the embassy, turns out I ended up with a 6-day holiday. So I’m going to Shanghai baby!

Over they years, several of my students have ended up in Shanghai. Last winter holiday I hung out with Wendy, one of the students in my first class in China and Oak, one of my "babies." They are years apart, but got along really well.

Over they years, several of my students have ended up in Shanghai. Last winter holiday I hung out with Wendy, one of the students in my first class in China and Oak, one of my “babies.” They are years apart, but got along really well.

And I’m excited. Soooooo excited. And I realized something funny. To me, going to Shanghai feels like “going home.” Even more so then America at this point.

Shanghai is a city that I am intimately familiar with over years of visiting. When I was in Lin’an I went at least 10-12 times a year. I stay at the same place (my favorite hostel), I go to the same places, and most importantly, I see my friends.

I never lived in Shanghai and yet it is the place I have the most friends. Not quite sure how that happened, but I’m not complaining. And these friends have known me for years. I’ve known one friend, Hannah, almost the whole time I’ve been in China. We met at the end of my first year and have seen each other regularly since then. There is also my bestie, Ben, an American, who I’ve been close with for almost 3 years.

The epic "purple shirt guy" night in which Ben and I first met. Hannah. Nick and my friend from Kunming were also hanging out with us that night. While Hannah and Ben aren't close, they get along well and we hang out sometimes together when I'm in Shanghai.

The epic “purple shirt guy” night in which Ben and I first met. Hannah. Nick and my friend from Kunming were also hanging out with us that night. While Hannah and Ben aren’t close, they get along well and we hang out sometimes together when I’m in Shanghai.

 

And that’s meaningful to me. The longer I’ve been in China, the more I and other expats move, the more I find comfort in people who have known me a long time. I love that Hannah knew me when I was with my ex, knew me when we broke up and saw me as I changed. She’s also met all the important people in my life (I ended up bringing my closest friends to Shanghai with me). I love that Ben has seen me through all my dating drama’s and I’ve met all his favorite co-workers who have since become friends of mine.

Hannah with my friend Anmol in 2012. Not only is Hannah really fun she is also super hot. Every guy friend I have brought to meet her falls in love with her immediately.  ;)

Hannah with my friend Anmol in 2012. Not only is Hannah really fun she is also super hot. Every guy friend I have brought to meet her falls in love with her immediately. ;)

One of my favorite things of traveling is going to new places and meeting new people. The baggage of your past doesn’t have to go with you if you don’t pack it. But as China becomes my home, my real home, I also like people who know me. I like our shared history and our shared past. I get tired when I’m around the same people year after year. But I don’t have to worry about that in China, so I like the few rare people I have known for a long time.

Ben and I the first night we met and became "besties."

Ben and I the first night we met and became “besties.”

Ben and I last winter (three years after we met) still hanging out and having fun.

Ben and I last winter (three years after we met) still hanging out and having fun.

And the city has a special place in my heart. Since I’ve never lived there, I never had any disappointments. It’s like my playground of good food, good shopping and the best time with amazing fun people. It’s a place I never lived and yet, when I go back, I feel like I’m going home.

 

Categories: China, Traveling | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Writing and Teaching Update (or, What I do When I’m not Eating or Playing Sports

I know based on my last few post you’ve probably been thinking I’ve been only eating and playing. And while I have, no doubt, I’ve also been busy with writing and teaching.  In fact I’ve got a few exciting things to tell you.

Writing

First, I wrote a guest blog over at mytefl.net! It was originally going to be a post for this website about how I learn Chinese culture through my English class. One of the admins (or is he an editor? I’m not sure) asked me to submit a guest post for their site and I realized this post I had already written would be perfect for them.

So go check it out! It’s actually been edited for a change, so there shouldn’t be half as many grammar mistakes as you find on my blog. (Yes, I’m aware. No, I don’t care.) Teach in China: How to Really Learn the Culture

Also, speaking of writing, I have officially finished the second draft of my book. You know, the one I wrote in a mere 20 days. It took me 6 weeks to edit it into something slightly readable. The first draft was also 500 pages. I managed to cut it down to 425 pages and then somehow added another 25 pages. God, I’m a chatty bastard.

My second draft all printed up!

My second draft all printed up!

 

I have a few first-readers reading it now to give me feedback and I’m eager to start draft three! (I’m forcing myself to take a two week break from working on my book and it’s killing me. I had arranged everything in my week around writing, and now that I don’t have that anchor I feel adrift with my new free time.)

And, I (kinda) ended up in a magazine. We had a beach picnic a few weeks ago in request of a magazine. They wanted to take pictures of a “foreigners” picnic. We hung out in the beach, played frisbee and ate good food. All while being photographed. Well, the article finally came out, though I haven’t actually gotten my hands on a copy yet. They really featured my Spanish friend Ivan with his Spanish Omelettes.

The magazine me and my friends were in. Hopefully I'll get a copy to take a clearer picture and read the article!

The magazine me and my friends were in. Hopefully I’ll get a copy to take a clearer picture and read the article!

Teaching

The teaching side of things has been going well. Not one, but THREE classes chose me as their favorite teachers (out of all the teachers that teach them this year). It was a super nice honor, and totally unexpected.

IMG_8362

The funniest thing was these classes contacted me monday and required me to give them a little write-up about myself for the higher-ups. It’s not just like, “we like you,” but an actual official thing. On Wednesday I was told unexpectedly I had a meeting. I assumed that the meeting was in response to this “award” and it would be a little award ceremony.

In fact, before the meeting I complained loudly to some co-workers about the annoying ceremony that was going into all this. “They totally chinese-fied a nice sentiment from my students,” I complained.

Then I got to the office and it turned out to be a normal meeting about final exams and stuff. They never even mentioned my accolades and I’m not even sure they knew about it. So here I was annoyed by the unwanted attention, and then annoyed by the total lack of attention. Ha!

Also, thought I’d show this brief video. I gave the students a genre of music they weren’t familiar with such as dubstep, new age, jazz etc, and they had to prepare a fifteen-minute presentation introducing the style of music. This group got reggae as their genre.

That’s the big news these days but soon I’ll have even bigger news! I’ve done a few things that will come out next week or two weeks. So you have to wait to hear about them. So see? I’ve been a bit busy besides just hanging out and eating.

Okay, there's been a bit of relaxing on the beach as well...

Okay, there’s been a bit of relaxing on the beach as well…

 

 

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