New Beginnings and New Outlooks

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“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth… not going all the way, and not starting.” ~Buddha

Hey all, time for a weekly update. So yes I have been in Hangzhou since September 8th and boy has it been such a great start to my year. The beginning of this year is much more different than my start last year, mainly due to my previous experience and expectations of what is to come.

Let me start by saying that my transition into China is much smoother, not just because of my renewed VISA but because of my really good friend Rebecca.

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Rebecca is a good friend and classmate of mine from college who taught at the same school that I am currently employed at. I give her credit for putting me in touch with my employer, taking me to delicious restaurants and stores in the area and introducing me to many of her friends including students and other teachers. It is thanks to Rebecca that I have been so busy in between waiting for classes to begin. There are two main factors as to why I feel so positive and hopeful for this new chapter in my life.

1. Noticeable Improvement in the Language

I told myself before the year began that I was determined to take Chinese courses again. While one may learn more of the language outside of class, I would prefer to have a teacher that I can continually ask language questions that no one else can answer clearly. Before Rebecca left, she let me know that while beginner classes are much more common at the school, there are intermediate classes if you contact the right people. She was correct as I quickly found the more advanced classes and how lucky (and terrified) was I to find it was what I was looking for, all spoken Chinese, little to no English.

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My new teacher took a photo of the only other student, named Chris, and I reading the book. You can’t tell but I am nervous and frustrated but it is the class that I both wanted and needed to take and am looking forward to continuing the course. I was just surprised to notice that I was able to pick up on the conversations exchanged between the teacher, Chris and I.

As my level has improved tremendously since last year, my role in the language is so different. One day I was with my friend Monica at the Freed shopping mall looking for shoes when I had a strange realization. As most of the shopkeepers, they kept saying standard phrases like “they are comfortable”, “the shoes look good”, and more. While I’m sitting there understanding everything, Monica kept turning to me for translations. That’s when it hit me, I’m acting as a translator this year.

It is not a bad thing at all, it is just something I am not used to. Last year, I was mostly relying on other people for translations from Chinese to English but this year, my Mandarin level is suddenly a bigger deal than I thought it was. I’ve been going to order food and reading menus, communicating what people are trying to say into Mandarin and even getting my friends and I from downtown to home by taxi. This is the first time that I have seen proof of my language improvement in a long time.

Knowing how difficult it is to not only know the language but to rely on others for translations, I have been giving advice to the teachers at my school on how they can improve their levels. I’ve been recommending Pimsleur, a listening and speaking language program and Popup Chinese, a website of Chinese podcasts in all level ranges.

My language skills have allowed me to form the self-confidence that I definitely lacked when I first came to China. Now I am going to restaurants and ordering food, buying bubble tea, shopping in malls, and jumping into taxis and giving directions on getting on. My new confidence is inspiring me to travel as much as I can and enjoy every moment of my second time abroad.

2. Old and New Friends

So I do not actually start teaching until October 8th since I will be teaching freshmen who are still in the middle of their military training courses. I even get a wonderful view from my apartment window on the 11th floor of the military training at the nearby school.

military training

While I do not teach until the 8th, I have been making the most of my days before my hours begin, including making plans for the National Holiday from October 1-7th. Mostly, though I have been spending time meeting up with old friends and introducing myself to new friends.

I have been spending time with a few of the teachers at the same school, most of whom are here through a graduate program. They are all very nice and eager to not only teacher but to experience Chinese culture and learn Mandarin. I’ve taken them to a few delicious places around the area for curry, bubble tea, and baozi, the same places that Rebecca took me to when I visited her in Hangzhou. When I’m not with the other teachers, I’m happily spending time with an old friend and a new friend, both teachers at my school.

rachelmonica

My friend Rachel was my classmate from elementary to high school who decided to come teach English in China this year and I’m so fortunate to be working at the same school as her. We have not only been catching up on old times but also been meeting new friends including Monica. Our adventures have included but not limited to eating Indian food, visiting downtown Hangzhou, and meeting other expats and Chinese locals.

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I’ve made another great friend whose English name is Charlotte who works in Xiasha, the area we both live in. Although we have only met up three times, I feel that we are already becoming such great friends.  She has been great and invited me to eat delicious Chinese food and even some Hangzhou cuisine.

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These are just an assortment of vegetables including raw purple potatoes, peanuts, and corn. Typical Hangzhou food is either prepared with little to no flavoring or seasoning or made very sweet.

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This is called 糖醋里脊,translating to sweet and sour pork tenderloin. Charlotte described this as a Hangzhou delicacy so whenever it is available, I should order it. She was right, as it was one of the best dishes I have had since being in Hangzhou。I look forward to spending more time with her as well as my other Chinese friends.

Before Rebecca left, she shared many of her friends’ contact information with me on Wechat. Through her I met some great people including students from the school. They include but aren’t limited to Sally, Dave, and more.

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My other new friends, Cloud and Helen are upperclassmen who I’ve already met up with for dinner. They are sweet, welcoming and enthusiastic about spending time with me and helping me if I need it.

Cloud and I met up with his friends Miranda and Monica while I brought Rachel and our Monica to go eat Indian food with our friend Katie, a friend of Rebecca’s and a teacher at the neighboring school, and the other foreign teachers at her school. Thanks to Cloud I already know when English corner begins and has even asked for my advice on how to attract more students to come to the sessions.

Helen has already invited me to dinner with her friend Angel. She also took me shopping at the local mall called Freed where she bought me a panda purse after bargaining down the price from 20 to 15 yuan!

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As a second time teacher, I must say that becoming friends with Chinese locals is the real treat to teaching abroad. You can travel and eat food anywhere but how often can you become friends with someone from the country you’re a guest in? Remember that expat friends are great to have, (I have quite a few now) but don’t let your friendships with other expats keep you from experiencing your time abroad. Depending on your attitude, expat friendships will keep you away from the culture whereas local friendships will help you be immersed in the culture.

I don’t know what else I can say but I already am enjoying my time back in China. I am blessed with such great and supportive friends both in and out of China. Unlike last year where I longed to find friends (before I met with Emily and Matt and my students), I am using every moment to experience what Hangzhou and China has to offer and inviting friends to enjoy the ride with me. What a wonderful new beginning it is.

Signing the contract, Moving, and VISA Renewal

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Hey all,

I just wanted to make a public post letting you know that this blog will be active again, because I have started a new adventure in China but in a new city. This year I will be working at another university in Hangzhou.

I will be honest and say that I did not update as much as I said I would in June mainly because it was super busy and difficult. Although my last classes ended in early June, I decided that I wanted to come back and teach ESL again in Hangzhou. As I came to my decision in May, I spent all of June moving from Bengbu to an apartment they let me keep everything in for the summer. In addition, I was working with the foreign contact teacher at my new school to renew my VISA. Oh boy was that an adventure.

If you are current foreign teacher in China, the best time to look for new jobs starts in April and May. Here is a breakdown of my experience of my VISA renewal for Hangzhou.

1. Sign the contract, but not before negotiating on edits and changes.

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Without getting too into it, I’ll give a general summary and advice on this one. As a foreign teacher who decided to stay for another year, I was on the hunt for a good university job before my contract and VISA ended on June 30th. Once I found a good job, I added my personal changes to the contract (for example, keeping the working hours consistent). I basically emailed back and forth with the foreign contract teacher with firm opinions and concerns but maintaining professional language. After our negotiations, I signed the contract and sent every signed page by scanning and emailing them.

Advice:

- Don’t sign a contract that makes you feel uncomfortable. After all, normally these contracts last for ten months.

-If you apply for jobs before your current contract and VISA ends, many school representatives will rush your decision to sign the contract. Sometimes they want teachers to sign it blindly but often, they want to submit your VISA for renewal before you return home.

- Sometimes, schools won’t agree with all of your changes. I found that most schools will be just as firm about their reluctance to certain contract changes. I found the best solution is to negotiate changes so you get near to what you want. However, if you don’t feel comfortable with what you disagree on even with negotiations, go ahead and continue looking.

2. VISA Renewal and other Preparation

Once the contract was signed, I had to get quite a few things prepared. That included but was not limited to digging up my recent health forms to apply for health insurance, submitting two ID photos of myself (forgot why) to the school, submitting copies of my former VISA and letting go of my passport so I could have my VISA renewed and residency in Hangzhou established.

Usually I would have to send all of the VISA renewal materials by snail mail but since the high speed railway has trains from Bengbu to Hangzhou, I decided to travel to Hangzhou so I could also start moving my belongings to my new apartment. Once in Hangzhou, I went with the school representative to the Police station where I had my picture taken and submitted my paperwork and passport. Since I had a flight on July 1, the school covered the costs to speed up the renewal process so I could have my passport with me and ready.

Overall I found the process to be simple and the only stress I had was whether I could get my passport in time. Luckily I got it back with time to spare.

Advice: The VISA Renewal isn’t difficult as long as you submit everything when the school asks for it. They really want the VISA done before you go home and you’ll feel so much better once it’s done and over.

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3. Moving, the most stressful part.

So once I signed my contract, I was given permission to start moving my belongings into my new apartment and leave it there over the summer. I took two trips to Hangzhou to bring all of my stuff in suitcases.

As I said goodbye to all of my students, Amy, Kang Kang, Bamboo, Qian Qian and Chun Mei came to my apartment. I told them I was officially leaving at 9 am. They instantly decided to come see me off at the station. Not only did they help drag both my suitcases and carry-on but they even brought me breakfast.

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These are some of the greatest people that I have met not just in China but in all of my travels. They are some of the most well-rounded and generous people I have encountered. I personally invited them to come out to visit me in Hangzhou.

I realize that I could have paid for a moving company but I was determined to fit everything into bags since I was making the trips to drop off my passport and get my passport back. Surprisingly shoving my way with suitcases onto the train was not the most stressful part of moving.

Remember my bike?

My new bike, I called it 藍熊貓 "Blue Panda".

So I decided that I wanted to bring my bike with me to Hangzhou. The only question was how. I either had the choice to take off the front wheel and then driving it onto the train. However, from the Hangzhou East Station, I had to get on the subway to go to my new location and of course, the subway does not allow bikes. So how did I do it you ask?

After having three moving companies refuse to transport my bike in fear of damaging it, Matt recommended a company he used for moving which I had another friend, Lucia call for me in Chinese. They said yes but said that shipping bikes would cost at least 500 yuan.

Reluctantly agreeing to the price, I removed the front wheel and then Lucia and I met with the movers to put the bike in the truck. Once I filled out the forms, they told Lucia that they would evaluate the cost of the bike and have the shipping cost half. Knowing the original price, I was totally upset with having to pay higher than 800 yuan.

Later Lucia called me to tell me the shipping price. 374 yuan. 374 YUAN! I couldn’t believe it! I was over the moon and so thankful for her help and Matt’s recommendation.

Lucia didn’t stop there, she continued to be the communicator between the movers and I so the bike would be delivered to the right location. So after all the time and effort and stress of having Blue Panda shipped, it finally came.

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Advice:

- Get a moving company to help you. I didn’t get a moving company since I was able to fit everything into two suitcases and two to three carry-on’s but if you have more, get your Chinese friend to help and call movers.

- Start packing early.

- Ask for help. I couldn’t have had this successful move without the help of friends. Whether it was recommending a company to me, translating or assisting me in physically getting on the train, everyone has skills to offer and are willing to do what they can.

 

Anyways, I just wanted to update on what I’m doing. Keep a look out for another post soon!

Amanda

Connections beyond Cultural Differences

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“There is a huge need and a huge opportunity to get everyone in the world connected, to give everyone a voice and to help transform society for the future.”
“Mark Zuckerberg, a founder of Facebook

Hello readers,

So it seems that I have a lot to catch my fellow adventurers up on. So for those of you who don’t know, I have been having a much easier and more fun experience with teaching this semester. I have felt so relaxed, confident and even excited to bring up new lessons for my students. One of those reasons is due to my determination to not only teach English but different aspects of American culture.

One of my frustrations with adjusting to a new culture I admit is dealing with local’s assumptions and set ideas on American culture and American foreigners. One of the biggest examples is the idea that foreigners are unable to use chopsticks. So one day over the Spring Festival, I came to the realization that I can change that. I decided that instead of getting mad at all the stereotypes and categorization from Chinese locals, why not change it as a foreign teacher? A majority of my students have barely even traveled around China and I am likely the first foreigner they have met in person so of course their knowledge of the world is limited. I have the perfect chance to enlighten young Chinese minds and defy set ideas they have of the world. They don’t even have to get on a plane, they can experience new realizations and break stereotypes in the classroom! Not just of America but of the world。

Have you ever heard or seen the videos titled “Where the Hell is Matt?” His two videos from 2008 and 2012 are two of my favorite videos on youtube. Due to China not having youtube, I decided to upload these videos onto a USB and show each of my classes, just to see their reactions. Both of his videos center around a man named Matt Harding who has spent time traveling to a variety of cities around the world and dancing either by himself or with locals. I thought it was perfect to show to groups of young adults who have been so sheltered and limited to education about other cultures.

This video from 2008. In every city, he does his signature dance as some locals join in with him.

This other video is from 2012. This time he does different dances for each city and even some local dances with locals themselves.

While watching these videos, I also made them write 3-5 sentences on their reactions to the videos and then share it with the class. This was so they could practice their speaking and because I was genuinely curious. These are pictures of my students watching the videos. This is the only time I think they’ve all paid attention to my teaching material at the same time (of course it could have been due to me sitting in the back).

After I gave them time to collect their thoughts. Due to such a large number of students per class, I made a few at random share their thoughts and to my surprise, there were students who actually volunteered to share what they wrote. Comments ranged from “This video is silly but fun”, “Dance can be shared in any language”, “I’ve never even heard of some of these countries”, and even “Now this makes me want to travel more, first in China then abroad.”. Some of them, loving listening to music, asked me for the songs in each video. For the last 10 minutes of class, I told my students to anonymously submit one sentence about their knowledge on American culture and then they could leave.

I did this because I wanted to create presentations based on their knowledge on American culture and address questions that they have about life in the US. I received many a variety of comments, all ranging in different topics including politics (I’m obviously not going to talk about this in depth), education, cuisine, diversity and even media and entertainment. I found out that some of them are even Walking Dead fans! Talk about connections beyond cultural differences!

I even received this wonderful comment from a wonderful student.

Lately in my stay in China, I had feelings of isolation culturally and language wise. I felt that no matter my efforts that I wasn’t getting anywhere. However, I think this semester has proved me otherwise and given me new inspiration to be an influential English teacher! In fact, some of my students have been so studious and appreciative of my work that I want to give them gifts. I have decided that before my time is over, I want to pair some of them up with English-speaking Pen-Pals. That way that even after I leave, I want them to still feel they can learn more about the world outside of them and find more connections beyond Cultural Differences.

Thank you all my fellow adventurers for your support and patience for my entries. I am eternally grateful and happy for everything from you.

Sincerely

Teacher Amanda

Reading Lessons from WeChat (Beginner to Elementary)

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Hello Fellow Adventurers!

I was not kidding when I said my goal was to overwhelm you with as many blog posts as possible. In order to make up for my lack of ones from earlier this year.

So I wanted to give more reading lessons in Chinese and I wanted to draw from a popular Chinese (Asian?) app known as Wechat. Wechat works in ways like facebook in which you receive updates or posts from friends and you can also make your own updates. Wechat is a perfect look into authentic Chinese words used by young adults both in messages and in person. For privacy reasons, I have edited out the usernames from the following pics.

 

Vocabulary:

萧 (xiao1) – mournful, bleak

记 (ji4) – remember

烩面 (hui4mian4) – braised noodles

感觉 (gan3jue2) – feel

不是 (bu4shi4) – not

很 (hen3) – very

好吃 (hao3chi1) – delicious

海鲜 (hai3xian1) – seafood

味 (wei4) – taste

好 (hao3) – good, very. 你好 (hello)’s 好。In this case it is used the same way 很 is used, meaning “very”

重 (zhong4) – heavy.

Translation: 萧记烩面,Mournfully remembered braised noodles. 感觉, (I) Feel。。。不是很好吃,(the noodles) are not very delicious), 海鲜味好重, the seafood taste is very strong.

I owe these mini Chinese lessons to Pleco, my reliable dictionary, my parents for buying me the full version of Pleco, my dad for teaching me how to change the settings so I can type in Chinese on my computer and to my fellow readers of course. Keep your eye out for more updates. More will be coming soon!

Reading Lesson from Wechat (Intermediate level)

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Hello all,

I have a reading lesson from Wechat that uses less common vocabulary. However, it is short and still fun so let’s go ahead and translate this. This is a status update from one of my friends on Wechat. I apologize if my translation is incorrect. If any reading experts see an error, please feel free to comment corrections.

Vocabulary:

一个人 (yi1ge4ren2) – by oneself

在 (zai4) – at, referring to a location

少林寺 (Shao4lin2Si4) – Famous Shaolin temple

睡觉 (shui4jiao4) – sleep, go to bed

满脑子 (man3nao3zi) – one’s whole mind

电视剧 (dian4shi4ju4) – TV play/drama

都 (dou4) – all

是 (shi4) – is/am/are

里 (li3) – inside

赤身 (chi4shen1) – bare

裸体 (luo3ti3) – naked

的 (de) – indicates possession

功夫 (gong1fu) – skill

少年 (shao4nian2) – early youth

形象 (xing2xiang4) – image

啊 (a) – phonetic sound like AH

弥陀 (Mi2tuo2) – Amida, figure in Buddhism. You will see this word commonly in Buddhist works and in Asian temples but not normally in chats with teenagers. Haha.

佛 (Fo2) – Buddha, this character symbolizes Buddhism. Again, you will commonly see this in Temples and Buddhist works.

明天 (ming2tian1) – tomorrow

去 (qu4) – go

尼姑庵 (ni2gu1’an1) – Buddhist nunnery, very famous in the Shaolin temple

净 (jing4) – clean. This I’ve read is common to read in Buddhist works symbolizing “cleanliness of the world’s possessions”. Also used in 干净, the commonly used word for clean.

下心 (xia4xin1) – do with concentration, do attentively.

Now, knowing our new vocabulary, let’s translate.

一个人在少林寺睡觉, by oneself sleeping at the Shaolin temple.

满脑子电视剧都是里赤身裸体的功夫少年形象, In my whole mind TV dramas all are in bare nakedness of skilled early youth images.

啊弥陀佛明天去尼姑庵净下心, Ah Amida Buddha tomorrow (I) will go to the Buddhist nunnery to clean (myself) attentively

I owe these lessons to my parents for giving me the full version of Pleco (Chinese dictionary), Pleco itself for helping improve my reading, my dad for telling me how to put Chinese typing on my computer. If you don’t completely understand or remember the vocabulary, don’t worry. Just remembering one word is a stepping stone for improvement! Thank you and look out for more entries!

Chinese Food Menu (I promise I am still alive)

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Hello fellow adventurers,

I sincerely apologize for the extremely late update on my adventures but I promise, I am going to surprise you and make it up to all of you!

So good news, my Chinese reading level has drastically improved since I last updated. Are you ready for a new lesson?

Alright fellow Chinese learners, here is another authentic Chinese food menu that you commonly see in China. So these are plenty of options yet without an understanding of 汉字 (Chinese Characters) or pictures of the meals, it’s pretty difficult to select. So allow me to translate.

特色铁板炒饭- Characteristic fried rice dishes served on a sizzling steel plate.

Okay so we have a restaurant that specializes in serving stir-fried dishes. So any time you see 炒, it’s always stir-friend food.

First column: 炒饭类 (Types of Stir-Fried Rice)

素菜炒饭 – Vegetable Fried Rice

香菇炒饭 – Mushroom Fried Rice

鸡蛋炒饭 – Egg Fried Rice

红肠炒饭 – Saveloy (type of sausage) Fried Rice

肉丝炒饭 – Shredded Meat Fried Rice

西红柿鸡蛋炒饭 – Tomato and Egg Fried Rice

皮蛋花生米炒饭 – Preserved Egg and Shelled Peanut Fried Rice (Big no no for peanut eaters)

宫爆鸡丁 – Spicy Diced Chicken or as Americans might know it as, “Kung Pao Chicken”.

香肠炒饭 – Sausage Fried Rice

扬州炒饭 -Yangzhou (region in Jiangsu) Fried Rice

咸肉炒饭 – Salty Meat Fried Rice

红烧肉炒饭 – Soy-braised Meat Fried Rice

牛肉孜然炒饭 – Beef Cumin (dried seed from parsley family) Fried Rice

牛肉咖喱炒饭 – Beef Curry Fried Rice

香菇滑鸡炒饭 – Mushroom Smooth (?) Chicken Fried Rice

鱿鱼炒饭 – Squid Fried Rice (Yum?)

Column 2: 炒面类 (Types of Stir-Fried Noodles)

素面炒面 – Vegetable Fried Noodles

鸡蛋炒面 – Egg Fried Noodles

红肠炒面 – Salvory FriedNoodles

肉丝炒面 – Shredded Meat Fried Noodles (for meat lovers but ask what kind of meat!)

素炒米线 – Plain Parched Rice Strips (I have no idea what this is, maybe almost noodles)

素炒年糕 – Vegetable Fried Nian Gao (yum!)

香肠炒面 – – Sausage Fried Noodles

鸡丁炒面 – Diced Chicken Fried Noodles

牛肉炒面 – Beef Fried Noodles

红烧肉炒面 – Soy-braised Meat Fried Noodles

肉丝炒米线 – Shredded Meat Fried Rice Strips

肉丝炒年糕 – Shredded Meat Fried Nian Gao

菠萝炒年糕 – Pineapple Fried Nian Gao (WOW! I WANT TO TRY THIS NOW!)

Last Bit: 畅爽美味,快乐上桌 – Free refreshing delicious food, happily served dishes.

 

If you learn and practice reading menus, your dining experience in China will not only be more convenient but also more enjoyable. Again folks, I apologize for the lateness in my update. But you are about to see so many updates to update for all of my lateness!

 

When life gives you lemons…

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“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.” – Michael J. Fox

Hi followers, I’m sorry for the lack of consistency of my blog. I just want to give a shout out to all of you for being so loyal and asking for updates and how I am and everything. Well I’m about to give you a general explanation for why I haven’t been updating consistently. Being in China and working where I am has been a great blessing. However, it wouldn’t be life if I didn’t get lemons with all the good stuff.

Hardships of teaching:

I am thankful for the job that I have now even though I have problems with the English department. My contract requires me to work 18 hours per week when I only work 16 and all of those hours are done by noon from Monday-Friday.  In addition ,my students are around the ages of 17-20 which makes it easier for me to connect with them as a recent college graduate. Unfortunately, while I do have dedicated, kind and passionate students, some of my students aren’t so happy with me as a teacher.

As an English teacher at this school, I have English books with recordings and lesson plans based on them that are optional for me to use. My students and I both dislike them. My students dislike them because the recordings and the book activities are boring. I dislike them because the books were written by Chinese authors and don’t teach any authentic English.

After I used the powerpoints my mom made for me voluntarily, I worked hard to make more. I made powerpoints based on the book topics going over useful vocabulary while also giving my students English lessons they could relate to. I ranged from talking about my childhood demonstrating the past tenses, practice job interview questions demonstrating the present tenses, and shopping demonstrating the four conditionals. I even created an environmental protection presentation demonstrating the use of gerunds. I would work from Sunday afternoon to night on these powerpoints to teach my students but also make English class fun. While some of my students still try to sleep and use their phones in class (I call them out on it, I don’t let them get away with it) most of them seemed to pick up on my lessons and enjoy my teaching.

Just today, Teacher Wu, the human resource person stopped by to give us new information on the department.

The good news: Our communications person between us and the head of the English department is changing next semester because the current one has not been informative to Matt or I. She has not told us stuff like about our days off or even when classes end for this semester. When the department head has asked us to be at a school event, she would only tell us about two days in advance and still expect us to be there. Even after I politely asked her to be more informative during a text chat, she did not respond to me. Hence, Matt and I are pleased.

The bad news: It’s not so much bad news as it is gossip. While I was gone, Teacher Wu told Emily and Matt about past foreign teachers at the school. He told us when the students had a British teacher, they complained to the English department that his pronunciation was incorrect. One of the other teachers would try to make his lessons fun by playing guitar and singing English and the students still complained.

So Teacher Wu dropped that the students were complaining about Matt and my classes, saying that our lessons weren’t serious enough. Matt let me know that no matter what I do, there will be students who complain about you just to complain. Still though, being a first time teacher who was proud of her hard work, I took it very personally.

Hearing this news was like putting Matt and I in our places on the totem pole as foreign teachers at the school. It frustrates me that while I’m the teacher, the students seem to hold more power over us even just by having contact info to our boss, which Matt nor I were even given. In the movie Moneyball, there’s a quote from Brad Pitt saying “Here are the good teams and here are the bad teams, now there’s a bucket of crap, and then there’s us.” Here is my version, “Here is the school headmaster, then the English department head, then the Chinese English teachers, then the students, now here’s a huge bucket of crap and then there’s Matt and I.”

Matt is right though, I just need to move on. I have actually had a few students, two who aren’t even mine, who choose to come at 8 to my classes and compliment my lessons every time. They tell me that most English teachers sit and play the recordings and that it’s great that I am not only teaching authentic English but making it fun. In each of my classes while I always have those students who try to sleep or use their phones, I have at least 5 per class who participate, give me friendly smiles and even give genuine greetings to me on campus. For teaching, I need to accept that not all of my students will like my classes no matter what I do but just continue to enjoy myself and focus on the friendly faces in my job experience.

Hardships of being a foreigner:

This is probably my biggest source of unhappiness and frustration. Being a foreigner not just in China but in Bengbu has been a huge struggle for me.

Let me break this down. People personify Beijing as an old man tied to Chinese history and traditions and Shanghai as a modern and lively 20 year-old woman. If Bengbu was a person, it would be a junior high student who lacks general social etiquette and thinks the world centers around them. Right now, Bengbu is a developing city but is still a small, countryside place that most of the residents have never been outside of. You can only imagine their reactions when they see foreigners.

Being a foreigner in Bengbu has been hard for me. I feel as though I am treated as a funny-looking and dim-witted alien by both my students and the locals. Whenever Matt, Emily and I are out in Bengbu, we constantly get uncomfortable stares from strangers, and that’s not even the worst of it. I’ve seen people not-so-subtly talk and gossip when they spot me in public. Last week when I added my students WeChat names, I told them in both English and Chinese to send messages in Chinese so I could practice reading. No matter how many times I told them, they did not believe I had the capacity to understand Chinese writing until I wrote a few characters for them.

When we are out shopping, shopkeepers will go walk to us and offer service to Emily, dismissing Matt and I, assuming we don’t know any Chinese and that Emily is only with us as our translator. Even when I use Chinese with locals, they ignore me and only speak to Emily. One day when we were shopping, I used some Chinese to buy some gloves. As I tried to take out money, four of the shopkeepers closely surrounded me asking me where I was from in a different way from how I was taught. They kept laughing and staring until I understood and answered them.

Being a foreigner and still in the process of learning conversational Mandarin, I feel so powerless and alone. As someone who has traveled a lot and and holds a liberal arts education, it’s frustrating to be in an environment where the people discriminate so openly against foreigners. However, it also brings me back to some teachings of Wica.

Last Spring, I went to Ft. Bragg to learn about military life and the religions represented on base. Wicca was one of them and one huge aspect of Wiccan teachings is power. In Wicca, they discuss that you cannot control the forces in your life but you have control of yourself and your reactions.

From this, I know that people in Bengbu will continue to remain ignorant and discriminate but I should not let it have an impact on me. I constantly remind myself that I am lucky to be more cultured and experienced in the world outside of my home country. In addition, I continue to remain open-minded which means that I not only embrace diversity in background but also in opinions.

Hardships of the real world:

A part of me is happy to be out of school and on my own. I may not have a desired career path right now but it has given me time to explore my options and organize my priorities. While I am excited to see where life is taking me, there are times I wish everything could go back to the way it used to be.

My parents just came to visit for Thanksgiving break and my birthday (keep an eye out for a separate entry soon). Being stressed out about my job, it was nice to pick them up in Shanghai and even bring them back to Bengbu with me. We were both able to catch up with each other and give them a fun experience in China. It made it more difficult for me to say goodbye.

A part of me just wanted to go back to America with them. I miss the small things like watching movies at home, going out to lunch/dinner at home, visiting my extended family in NJ, Connecticut, and Hawaii and having family friend BBQ’s. When I’m surrounded by both family and family friends, I feel so much love and support and all my worries aren’t as important as spending time with them in the moment.

I also miss and envy my friends. College was a time I was within walking distance from friends and even at home, I was only a drive away. Being on my own is hard even just for conveniently making friends. A few of my friends are still in college, being accepted into or attending grad school, or have their desired careers. As I mentioned, sometimes I feel as though my efforts in teaching are a waste and am hired to help the school’s publicity rather than actually teach. As a result, I feel insignificant and small. While I am proud of my friends for their accomplishments, one reason why I envy them is they are given work they’re passionate about or at least direction in a desired career path. As for me, I am still pondering what career I want in the future.

I’m convincing myself that just because something is easy doesn’t mean it isn’t worth experiencing. It’s hard for me to be done with college and currently not being in reach of friends or family. However, I always keep them in mind and remember that when people don’t always accept me in Bengbu that I have all of my support both back at home and overseas.

So the answer to my title is “when life gives you lemons…learn from it, accept it and move on.” Just by finally acknowledging and accepting my built-up emotions is a huge relief for me. I apologize for such a long and sad entry but this was helpful for me. I will encounter many challenges that I may not be able to fix but the best that I can do is accept these challenges. Some people will always be ignorant, some students will never be happy and I will always feel nostalgic but the best that I can do is accept how I feel and control how I react to what life throws at me.

Street Menu for Nian Gao

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Hi everyone,

I’m super sorry that I’ve been lacking in the blog updates. I actually have so many ideas for a big blog post but I haven’t figured out how to organize my thoughts. However, something that I’ve been wanting to add to my blog is a section on mini-Chinese lessons.

What I wanted to show you is a menu for 年糕 or “nian-gao” which are basically steamed glutinous mini rice cakes. They have become one of my favorite Chinese dishes.

Here are some pictures of Nian Gao. :D

www.steamykitchen.com

 

en.wikipedia.org

 

Interested in trying it in China? Well one place to find it is on the street from food vendors. Here’s an example of a street menu for nian gao. I’m going to break it down and translate it.

年糕

 

So the title up there shows “年糕河粉“, (pinyin: chǎoniángāohéfěn) pronounced “chow knee-anne gow, chow huh fun”. This means “stir-fried nian gao, stir-fried rice noodles.” At this stand, nian gao and rice noodles are mixed together with different ingredients.

Next to each menu, you’ll see a price of 5-6 yuan (). I’ll go through each item one by one.

素菜年糕河粉 (Pinyin: sùcài niángāohéfěn) – Pronounced “Sue-tsai knee-anne gow huh fun” meaning, “vegetarian nian gao and rice noodles.”

鸡蛋年糕, 河粉 (Pinyin: jīdàn niángāohéfěn) – Pronounced “Gee-dan knee-anne gow huh fun” meaning, “chicken egg nian gao and rice noodles.”

红肠年糕, 河粉 (Pinyin: hóngcháng niángāohéfěn) – Pronounced “hong-chong knee-anne gow huh fun” meaning, “saveloy (sausage) nian gao and rice noodles.”

番茄年糕, 河粉 (Pinyin: fānqié niángāohéfěn) – Pronounced “fan chee-eh knee-anne gow huh fun” meaning, “tomato nian gao and rice noodles.”

香肠年糕河粉 (Pinyin: xiāngcháng niángāohéfěn) – Pronounced “shee-ah-gung chong knee-anne gow huh fun” meaning, “sausage nian gao and rice noodles.”

鸡丁年糕河粉 (Pinyin: jīdīng niángāohéfěn) – Pronounced “gee-ding knee-anne gow huh fun” meaning, “chicken meat nian gao and rice noodles.”

肉丝年糕河粉 (Pinyin: ròusī niángāohéfěn) Pronounced “row-suh knee-anne gow huh fun” meaning, “shredded pork nian gao and rice noodles.”

I am hoping that this section of my blog can give my readers a bit of background on types of food and readings that travelers should know about. I hope you enjoy. :)

 

Healthy Diet in China

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Hi everyone,

I’m sorry that I haven’t been updating my blog. I have been under a lot of pressure for different reasons, one of them including writing a good post all of the time hence why I haven’t been updating lately since I haven’t had much to report on. To make up for my lack of posts, I will post a weekly post soon but in the meantime, it’s about time I add to another one of my categories called “Tips and Advice.”

Before coming to China, my biggest worry was eating and maintaining my weight since I gained about seven pounds on my last trip to China in just two weeks. So here’s one tip that I have for all of you whether you want to travel or teach here.

EAT HEALTHY!

Actually while I’ve been in China, I’ve lost a significant amount of weight. In addition to that, my acne has cleared from my face. I owe all of that to the careful diet I have been maintaining since I’ve been here.

My goal every day is to have one cup of fruit, two cups of vegetables, some protein and of course, water. I have mostly been eating salads (green leaves, tomatoes, Italian dressing), fresh fruit, oatmeal, rice, and my vitamins. In addition, I use very small bowls so my portions are always in control. No matter what, I always make sure I drink four bottles of water daily.

Chinese food is not known for being “diet friendly” since Chinese restaurants use salt, MSG and other types of tasty but unhealthy flavoring. This doesn’t sound that exciting, especially to someone who loves experiencing a culture through food. But honestly, if you are here for long-term, you will have many opportunities to enjoy Chinese food, and a lot of it. Because in Chinese culture, it is frowned upon to not finish a meal, many of my friends have encouraged me to eat as much as possible. Don’t do it. If you are full, you are full, manners don’t matter. Your body and health is more important.

As for the food at restaurants, don’t be afraid to sample everything since Chinese dishes are too good to pass up. If you are concerned about nutrients/diet, I recommend ordering dishes consisting of vegetables, tofu, chicken and soup broth. Are these dishes made so they’re “diet friendly”? Probably not, but they are much better choices than the sauce-braised fried foods you could be eating

However, you shouldn’t eat healthy JUST to lose weight. Eat healthy to be healthy. When you’re in another country for a significant amount of time, you have a higher chance of getting sick abroad (ex: a cold, food poisoning, etc). You can’t always prevent yourself from getting sick but when you’re giving yourself the right nutrients, your body has a higher chance of fighting or recovering from sickness.

Again, don’t be afraid to try the food here. It’s very delicious but as I just mentioned, you can be healthy but also have the Chinese experience. I will be updating with more tips of a healthy lifestyle in China soon.

Invincible Determination

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“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”

- Langston Hughes

Hey all. I’m sorry for the inconsistency of my postings. I’ve been pretty busy with classes and everything else. In addition, sometimes I don’t have as much to report on. But I will try and return back to posting every Sunday like before. Because now I’m even more excited about my time spent in China. What I’m planning on doing is if I don’t have an exciting weekly update, I will write a separate post about travel tips, Chinese phrases, and more. Anyway, now for my post.

I’ve mentioned in my previous post that I have been practicing my Chinese. Well one reason why I am posting a delayed entry is because I have spent most of my free time studying and practicing writing Chinese vocabulary words. I’ve been adding a variety of words ranging from animals to popular pronouns and mythical creatures. Lately I have been really enthusiastic in my studies that I lose track of time like I do when I’m drawing.

Chinese

All of the pages in this picture are written on the back and front. In addition to practicing new Chinese vocab on Pleco, I also have Emily help me with my Chinese by teaching me phrases and words that native Chinese speakers use. In order to practice my speaking and tone accuracy, I use these phrases when I’m speaking to my students and even to people on the street.

From practicing on my own to throwing myself out there to practice speaking and listening has really helped me in some obvious ways. Now I am not only able to pick up more on what people say but I can read some of the Chinese signs more clearly. Emily has told me that she is impressed not just with my speaking but my reading comprehension.

Something that has made studying Chinese a struggle for me is that I feel like I won’t reach a desired goal in my journey through the Chinese language. I’ve always asked myself “When will I be fluent? How will I know when I’ll be fluent? What happens after I’m fluent?” Well I have decided to give myself a really long-term goal in about 5-10 years. I want to take the HSK.

The HSK or the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi is an exam for non-native speakers to take in order to test the speaking, reading, writing and listening in the Chinese language. Many people take this exam because the scores increase your chances of obtaining a job in Mandarin-speaking countries and exempts you from Chinese courses if applying to schools. Personally, I want to take this because I don’t just want to tell people I’m fluent, I want to prove to people that with hard work and determination, that I was able to pass an exam that makes it official.

I haven’t told many people about this because at this point, they would probably think I’m crazy. Yes, I am pretty crazy but I am also determined to make the most of my time in China and my time with the language.

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