I'm back in China! I'm a certified TEFL/TESOL teacher in Longyan, Fujian, China.

15th November 2012

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China’s new political future

With the Politburo Standing Committee being decided upon today, China’s leadership is taking a new direction, a not too surprising but still a bit disappointing conservative one. Although a communist central government doesn’t exactly scream bi-partisan or of the people, this particular set of leaders is the least diverse since the Deng era. 

A few articles to start with: 

The first is just a summary of why this isn’t necessarily a great thing:

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/11/15/world/asia/china-leadership-reaction-cheng-li/index.html?hpt=hp_c1

The second is a short bio on the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee (the Premiere, the President, and the next 5 most influential decision makers):

http://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2012/11/world/china-new-leadership/index.html?hpt=hp_c3

Tagged: ChinagovernmentChinese governmentXi JinpingPolitburo Standing CommitteePolitburoDengconservativecommunismMao

10th November 2012

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westernherbalism asked: Hey again! Sorry I never responded to your answer a few weeks ago - I was looking for a message back and I missed what you posted on your wall. On another note - I'm really sad to hear that you've been so sick! That's terrible :/ It sounds like you've definitely already decided to come home - but would you be interested in some possibly helpful herb info? I'm finishing up my Holistic Nutrition and Herbalism degree and may be able to help! Just offering in case you're interested!! :)

I am always interested! I’m all about food being the best medicine. I would have responded directly to you, but I believe your message/ask is disabled. This is the only way I can respond.

Tagged: westernherbalism

9th November 2012

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Big News

I have been sick since Tuesday, October 30th and I still am. The abdominal pain comes and goes, the diarrhea comes and goes. I went to the hospital, have been taking the medicine religiously and still do not feel 100%. 

Because of my autoimmune condition, when I get sick, my immune system springs in to action, but it isn’t well organized or effective action. Yes, some of the sickness gets attacked, but my immune system also attacks me and the healthy things in my body that I need (thyroid, pancreas, adrenals, liver, kidneys). So when my immune system is triggered, my immune response is usually more serious than the sickness itself. Being sick for this long and not getting better means that my body is really being impacted, that my body is not running at 100%, maybe not even at 80%. There is not adequate health care here. Yes, I prefer Eastern health care, but I prefer Eastern health care that knows what amoebas, antibiotics and probiotics are. Yah, there is Eastern health care here, but it’s maybe 1930s quality health care. 

The best decision for me, long term, considering my health, is to go home. So….yes, I’m going home. I will be leaving here sometime in the beginning of December. Contractually I am obligated to give them 30 days of notice so my last official day will be December 3rd, then I will get on a plane and fly back to colorful Colorado.

This was a very big decision for me. While this adventure has thus far been very difficult, I’ve also grown a lot. I have learned so much about myself, who I am, what I want, what I need. Would I like to stay here for the whole year? Yes, absolutely. I would love to be stubborn and say no I am not giving up and tough it out. But that decision would be for the rest of the world. That decision would be for the people in my life that will see my going home after 2 months as weakness, as giving up, as not being good enough. That decision would also be for the part of me that thinks going home means I’m not good enough. BUT the decision I am making is for the part of me that knows what I want and what I need. I need top-notch health care, I need to live in a place that isn’t going to make me sick every week. I’ve learned I love Colorado and that I need my family to be close by. Human contact and emotional interaction is really important to me and I could stay here 2 years and still not have the connections I do with people back home in Colorado.

It’s a tough decision, but I’ve made it, I’m sticking to it and I do not feel bad about making it. 

Tagged: ColoradoChinaChinese cultureculture shockhuman interactionhuman contactgoing homeexpatnever giving upflyinglifehomeAmericaUSA

8th November 2012

Photoset

The biggest profession in China still is agriculture. Everything here is part of Kelly’s family’s crops. Kelly’s mom, by herself, planted, waters, weeds, maintains and harvests these crops. And since it never really freezes here, growing season is just about year round. 

It’s nice to know where your food comes from. Honestly, I had no idea what taro, peanuts or ginger plants looked like. I’m glad I know. 

Taro: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taro I don’t particularly like it, but I like taro flavored things (candies and milk tea). The color is purple and the flavor is rich like hazelnut. Taro itself just tastes like a chewier potato. It’s starchy, dense and…mediocre. 

8th November 2012

Photoset

I went to my friend Kelly’s home town for the day. It’s a 20 minute bus ride outside of Longyan, it is called Dachi (means big pool). This is how you buy your meat in China. Don’t click to enlarge the third picture if dead animals freak you out. 

Tagged: meatbutcherChinachinese foodducklingfor salemakes me wanna go vegetarian

7th November 2012

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火锅 and 烧烤 (Hot pot and barbecue)

Two very special Chinese foods are hot pot and barbecue. Hot pot is boiling water often with chili peppers or a Sichuan pepper that, if eaten, has a very powerful numbing impact on your lips/tongue (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sichuan_pepper). You take your own individual basket to the front of the restaurant and get to pick out any sort of food you want to put into the hot pot. There are tons of vegetables (eggplant, carrot, spinach, lettuce, potato, bok choy….), there’s tofu, tons of mushrooms, then you get to the fish balls and ‘hot dogs’. When you go back to your table you put your foods into the boiling water until they are cooked, take them out and dip them in your own choices of sauces ranging from garlic, to ketchup, to spicy sauces, to peanut butter, to vinegar. 

Barbecue is using this very hot surface to cook your meats. They brought us plates and plates of meat. We had beef, lamb, chicken, fish, and octopus. We also had a very chewy not delicious piece of meat which I know was chicken and I believe we decided it was the chicken’s lungs, but neither of us were sure about what the other said. You can add oils, salt, pepper, MSG and spicy powder to your meats. When they’re done, enjoy.

Then for dessert, your hot plate is cleaned off and turned very cold. You then order specific flavors to make your own…sherbet would be the best way to put it. The flavors come in liquid form (sugar, water, flavoring), you pour them on to the freezing surface and you use spatulas to mix around the frozen dessert until it’s ice enough for you, then you serve and eat. We tried red bean, green bean, banana, and at least two others, but I can’t remember which. I like the banana most because for the banana one you actually take two whole bananas, mash them up, mix it with milk and that becomes your dessert - frozen on the cold plate thing. 

Quite an experience. 

Tagged: ChinaChinese foodfoodhot potbarbecueBBQChinese BBQmeatvegetablesdessertDIY

7th November 2012

Photoset

We went for a ‘hike.’ I’m from Colorado so I can’t really qualify this as a hike. We walked five minutes up a very well groomed staircase until we reached the flat landing. This walkway wraps all the way around the mountain, a cumulative distance of about 4km. I took lots of pictures of plants and trees because I’m used to hiking in drier, higher elevations, not in wetter, lower elevations. The flora is completely different and quite exciting! 

Tagged: ChinaChinesehikinghikewalkingexerciseplantsplantainsbamboopicturesFujiansub tropical climateclimate

7th November 2012

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President

Congratulations to Mr. Barack Obama for winning a second term in office as President of the United States!

Did you know that after 12 years in power Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, the Premiere and President of China, are leaving office? Yup. It’s certainly not as well covered considering it’s only a couple hundred people in a country of 1.3 billion that actually get to ‘vote’. Xi Jinping, the new leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). 

Very few people here know or care that their leadership is changing, even fewer have ever heard of Xi Jinping. The international community and media is still unsure of who he is or what he’s all about. If you don’t believe me, look for yourself. 

The Chinese consider Obama a great win for Sino-American relations. We’ll see what the new Chinese leader will bring to the table.

Tagged: PresidentObamaXi JinpingHu JintaoWen JiabaoChinaChinesesino american relationsinternational relationsinternational tradetradeINTSIRIA

2nd November 2012

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Being sick

I do not trust my Chinese or the doctors here well enough to totally trust that I’m actually being treated for what’s wrong with me. I’ve been in contact with my real doctor in Colorado and she believes that sometime in the last six weeks I picked up an amoeba, probably in something I ate or drank. It is sitting in my system and just having a party, causing me worse than menstrual cramps that happen all day, have had them for the last three and a half days, so bad that they wake me up while I’m sleeping. They are also coupled by explosive diarrhea that’s pretty much just water. (You are very welcome for that imagery.) 

So today I spent two hours, yes, two hours, with Sammy trying to find someone that knew what an amoeba is. I don’t know about you, but I learned what an amoeba is and what it does in sixth grade - middle school - and here I am in a hospital surrounded by licensed, practicing doctors that have no idea what an amoeba is. Of course they don’t speak English, but I spent last night looking in every possible location (multiple dictionaries and online) so that I came prepared with several agreed upon translations. Nope, no one knew. Finally someone seemed  to understand what was wrong, gave me four medicines. Hopefully one or all of them are antibiotics, but in all honesty, I don’t know. Only two of them have English on it and they’re in the latin version of English when it gets all sciency and it really makes no sense. It could also actually be gibberish, but there’s not really a way to find out. Sammy also has no idea what he gave me, but I’m supposed to take all of it three times a day after each meal until they are all gone. 

A side note on the hospital - dirtiest place I’ve been so far. I was afraid to touch anything and sit down for fear of what I might catch. Plus, smoking in a hospital is just a bad choice. 

Tagged: healthhealth carehospitalsChinahygeinecleanlinesssmokingamoebadiarrheaabdominal cramps

1st November 2012

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Sick. Again. My body is having a really hard time adjusting. I’ve been eating super clean, working out, keeping care of my mental health and still I’m sick. 

怎么办?

Tagged: ChineseChinaFujianLongyanTEFLexpatAmerican abroadsicktourist diarrhealaduzi

29th October 2012

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A typical meal here. This is from my thus far favorite restaurant. It’s close, us teachers go quite often. They have a large selection of dishes to select from, the people are very nice, and since they know me now no one stares or finds me strange, they just smile and ask me what I like.
For lunch and dinner they prepare a spread of about 20 dishes. You pick three vegetable dishes and two protein dishes (meat, tofu and egg). Then you get rice. All that (the picture) for 6.5 kuai, a dollar and four cents. You can get the soup of the day for 2 kuai more (32 cents). 
This is the normal order for me (and is pictured here): Green beans (not visible), cabbage, baby bok choy, egg fried with tomatoes, and pork meat/fat. 

A typical meal here. This is from my thus far favorite restaurant. It’s close, us teachers go quite often. They have a large selection of dishes to select from, the people are very nice, and since they know me now no one stares or finds me strange, they just smile and ask me what I like.

For lunch and dinner they prepare a spread of about 20 dishes. You pick three vegetable dishes and two protein dishes (meat, tofu and egg). Then you get rice. All that (the picture) for 6.5 kuai, a dollar and four cents. You can get the soup of the day for 2 kuai more (32 cents). 

This is the normal order for me (and is pictured here): Green beans (not visible), cabbage, baby bok choy, egg fried with tomatoes, and pork meat/fat. 

Tagged: baby bok choygreen beanstofucabbageporkeggtomatoescheaplunchto gorestaurantChinaChinese foodexpatAmerican abroadTEFL

29th October 2012

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My own class :)

Turns out I do have my own class :)

5 students, ages 14-17, English level around my Chinese level (some not quite there, some better)

I get to teach whatever I want, however I want. I can test, I can quiz, I can make them write, I can make them speak. I am in charge. I love it. 

Yesterday I had them write me a short composition about themselves so I could get to know them, and their vocab and grammar levels. Then we talked. I realized I was doing most of the talking and that needed to change. Gave them random topics and made them give small speeches.

Learning English here is all about learning to memorize, recognize and recite the text. 98% of students cannot produce any original material and if you ask them a question that’s not in the book, even if they have studied all the words in your question, they are unable to understand your question and answer you. So these small speeches, I don’t care what they talk about, as long as they stand there and words come out of their mouth for a minute. It will help build confidence, vocabulary and an ability to understand English contextually, even if they don’t know every word.

Next week I’m gonna bring in some English songs with lyrics, maybe an episode of Friends, and I think I’m going to make them write a poem :)

Tagged: poetryteachingEnglishTEFLexpatteaching abroadliving abroadforeign languageworkjobteacher

28th October 2012

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A couple of months ago I saw a funny tumblr statement about, why do people slip on banana peels in cartoons but it never happens in real life? I thought it was actually a sound assessment as I have never heard of someone not noticing a banana peel in front of them and subsequently slipping on it.

Today I stepped on a banana peel and fell down, just like a cartoon. 

Tagged: banana peelbananacartoonslipfallwalkingChinaexpatTEFLFujianLongyan

25th October 2012

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I know it’s shaky, but here is a little taste of the sounds and sights of where I live. In yesterday’s post there was a picture of down the alley next to my building. This is a video. First, on the right, there are lots of birds for sale. You can take them home alive, or just select one and have it killed and de-feathered right there. Then on the left there is fruit. Back to the right there are boxes of all sorts of mussels, clams, and other shelled sea food. Then boxes of live fish. The tubes going down into the boxes are oxygen so that the fish stay alive (that’s the plan). Then a couple of butcher stalls where raw meat hangs in the 90 degree heat all day, or until someone purchases. And last, entrance/exit number 2 (of 3) to my building. It’s a bicycle/motorcycle ramp. It winds back and forth to get you up to the second floor (above the market).

Tagged: Chinasights of Chinasounds of ChinanoisysmellyslaughterbutcheranimalsvideoexpatTEFL

25th October 2012

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Chaos - or how I got my own class. (I think.)

Some point after I got here someone asked me if I would like (as in would I enjoy) having my own class. I said yes yes yes! I would absolutely love to teach my own class, be able to determine my own content, my own teaching methods, give homework. I would love to teach English the way I think it should be taught instead of the way one lady (who can’t speak much English) decided 10 years ago how it should be taught. I never thought much of it. Thought they were just trying to make conversation.

Last week my friend Lee told me that the school was thinking about making a class that just the foreign teacher taught. Wow, I thought that would be great. Told her I really wanted it! There is a 20 something guy from Alabama that used to work here, that now works at the university, and Lee said that he would probably get to teach it since he has more experience. Didn’t get my hopes up. Even if someone says something is for sure, doesn’t mean it will actually happen. And it could take years for it to actually happen.

This week when I got my schedule I noticed that one of my classes was scheduled for two hours, which is strange. The Chinese English teachers teach two hour periods on the weekend but I don’t, I just teach one. Yesterday I asked. Apparently they made a class that only I teach. It has four students. That’s all I know. Don’t know how good their English is, or if there’s a book I’m supposed to teach or how old they are or….nope, nothing.

And the sad thing is this lack of communication doesn’t even stand out from all the rest. So…I got my own class, I think. I’ll let you know Sunday night if I actually got to teach it. 

Tagged: chaosconfusioncommunicationmiscommunicationorganizationChinaChineseEnglishTEFLteachingclassexpatworking abroadliving abroad