Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hong King Kong

Alright everyone, prepare to put your lives on hold momentarily while I let you experience mine. I think it's only fair that every city deserves a second chance-especially when the first chance proved to be quite delightful.  That's how the 8 of us girls ended up going back to Hong Kong for the weekend.  (That and the fact that we had to leave the country as our 60 days were up.)  So around lunch time on Friday we all got out of school early (highly recommended) and hopped on the ferry to Hong Kong.  Although I may make it sound a little simpler than it actually was-they're insignificant details.  Here you can see my roommate and I being so excited to go back to Hong Kong and acting like good little travelers while filling out our departure/arrival cards.  Once we had taken a bus to the bus depot, another bus to the ferry station, and walked from the station to the closest metro, we were able to call the random lady who was renting us her house for the weekend. The house was literally across the street from the metro and I don't think we could have been much luckier with our placement.  Here is the view from one of our windows. You can see a 7/11 is right there so really, what else could we need?  

(If you follow that little yellow line on the sidewalk to the right then it would lead you right down to the metro. I don't think we could have been any closer had we tried.)  Here's some of my roommates adjusting to our temporary abode.  8 girls, 2 single bedrooms, a bunk bed in another room, and 4 of us sleeping on random mattresses in this room here.

Talk about sleepover (except I would rather read than talk to people generally.  Has anyone ever considered how fun a sleepover would be if you just sat next to each other and all read books?) 
As I mentioned before, there was a 7/11 conveniently located down the street and inside I located Hong Kong's hidden treasure.  The elusive glass bottled CHOCOLATE milk!  (It's decided. I'm never leaving.)  This greatness even balanced out the fact that I was using a bath towel as a blanket. (Although in its defense, at least it was a dry bath towel as we had extras laying around.)  There was also the fact that the chandelier light things looked like Metapods hanging from the ceiling.  All in all I don't really see how anyone could resist this place?

So anyway, besides eating a delicious dinner of Japanese food the night wasn't terribly exciting.  Although I am generally opposed to be up bright and early on a Saturday this one happened to be an exception. (Say hello to miso soup, omurice, and katsu...mmmm.) 

Manisha, Hattie, and I had to make it to the temple by 7 am because we needed an early start for all of the things that had to get done today.  While we waited for our roommate to finish her session we took a picture next to this really cool Asian art piece.  Not long after this wonderful selfie (doublie?) happened some of the temple workers invited us to do baptisms early so they didn't keep us waiting.  (Technically baptisms didn't start until 8:30 a.m.)  Anyway, we got a special deal and were able to enjoy some special experiences in the temple with just the two of us and the workers there.  We felt bad telling them that we would have to wait anyway as one of our roommates was still inside, but at least we were able to wait outside and enjoy the beauty around the temple.  On our walk back to the metro we ran into our professor's wife (whom we had just met yesterday!) What are the odds?

We hurried home, restocked our bags, and once again hit the road.  Today we had a mission that was given to me by none other than my cousin, Christian Richter, whom Aunt Jan had previously dubbed "the Hong Kong expert." (Side note: with Christian being the king of Hong Kong would that truly make him King Kong then?)    Anyway, adventuring we went, and now that I'm safely home again I can write to the world all about it with my mother not having to worry one bit. 

Here are the 7 steps to happiness: (aka Sai Kung beaches)                                  1) Take the metro to Mong Kok station. Or, in our case, live conveniently close to this station by chance, practice reading a map, and walk there on your own.  Done?  Done.                                              
2) Hop on the red minibus that says "Mong Kok-Sai Kung" and pray that there's no mistake because you don't have any way to fix it if there is.                                                                                
3) Try to play your gameboy on the bus (because public transportation is a good excuse to not be productive) but then feel guilty that you're missing out on all the beautiful sights out the windows.        

   4) Make it to Sai Kung and confidently find yourself a taxi to take you the next leg of the trip.  I say confidently because when you have no idea what you're doing, no grasp of the language,  and no practicing finding or riding in taxis then confidence is just about all you have left at that point.  Also you can see little girls posing with fake newspaper boats and fake water fowls. 
               5) Survive the slightly terrifying taxi (apparently those are our terrified faces..?) ride where your only thoughts are wondering why in the world they don't simply make the road wide enough for two cars to pass one another without having to climb the side of the mountain (or the curb. Whatever.) and if your kiwi juice is still going to taste good once it's no longer cold. Give yourself a pat on the back once you can exit the taxi at your destination and give your driver some money (and possibly some driving tips if you can speak the language.  Then again, I wouldn't have been so chill if I had been the driver.) 

6) Hike up and down the stone pathway until you feel like you're wet enough that you feel as if you have already been swimming but you're clearly not satisfied yet so you know you really haven't yet.  Hold onto hope though because during your hike you will see things like this.
Note the cool, leafy staircase that winds up into who knows where.
The excellent wooden sign posts that are a definite highlight.
Oh and then these views.

And this one too. 

Here we are looking nice and chipper and surprisingly not sweaty. Maybe this was early on in the hike.
Eventually though the hiking does end but the instructions are not over yet.
7) Immediately upon arriving find someone offering to take you back to Sai Kung in their boat because HECK NO are you going to be wanting to do that climb again after playing in the sun all day. (Note: at least the last 1/3 of the hike was downhill...now imagine returning home.)

Step 7A) Give you and your companions a pat on the back for making it here without getting lost and do it soon before you get sunburned from being out all day.  Now that you're here though all you have to do is enjoy the view (and the food.)

Even though it was expensive and I don't even love coconut, Hattie and I felt like we would be full of regret if we walked away from this experience without ordering this coconut drink that everyone had.  So how we are drinking out of one (stinking huge) coconut and eating the milky meat.

                      After satisfying our immediate hunger we went to go play on the beach!  I collected some skeleton shells.  Sadly, the clam couldn't join my skeleton shell army (which, as you can see, was clearly in need or recruits) because the clam was still living inside.

I was extremely curious as to what it would look like or if there would be a pearl inside, but when your friend tells you that you will be murdering the clam if you open it it really makes you feel a little guilty.  Especially since I knew I wasn't even going to eat it.  So I buried it back in the sand. (Actually, I found quite a few animals buried in the sand.  Seeing as I have the habit of burying my hands in the sand, grabbing a fistful, and then letting it float away in the water I picked up a surprising (or maybe not so surprising) amount of animals.  They would then move inside my fist, cause me to make a startled noise and a splash, startle my roommates, and quickly escape back into the ocean.
After about 5 hours playing in the ocean we were all pretty exhausted and ready to go back home and clean up.  Of course, no amount of tiredness was going to keep me from going to eat some takoyaki that I saw being sold from a stand on our way home. (Sadly, I ate most of it before I remembered to take a picture.)

Oh and I can't move on past our ocean adventures without leaving everyone with another embarrassing video of me to enjoy. (Apparently I have no pride or no shame. Either way, enjoy!)
This is me trying to do the leap frog at 23.  I do Not still have it.
Ok, true to my usual luck with technology I cannot get the video to work on here. So here is a link to my facebook in case you haven't seen it yet.

Sunday went by pretty quickly.  We went to church at the Victoria Branch (which looked large enough to be its own ward really) and then our goal was to locate the Flying Pan. This is a slightly Americanized restaurant that Hattie's teacher told her to go to. It's like Dennys but in Hong Kong.  (Also it is my sincerest wish that it was an Asian who doesn't grasp the differences between 'l' and 'r' who named this restaurant.)

Once we finally motivated ourselves to get out of our chair we went to the midlevels and road the world's largest outdoor escalators again.  This time though we weren't overwhelmed, exhausted, and in a hurry. We took our time and stopped to admire things.  When we made it to the top we saw this sign for the Sun Yat-Sen museum (which our professor tried to take us to our first week but it was closed) so we couldn't resist.

We spent way more time there than we originally had expected to but it was a pretty cool place.  Here's a picture of us with Dr. Sun Yat-Sen himself and then a picture of one of the rooms.  Honestly, except for the fact that no matter how early we try and leave for the ferry we still find ourselves running down the street in an attempt to not get left behind, nothing too exciting happened the rest of the night. We safely returned from Hong Kong back to our lives as teachers. And we all lived happily ever after.  (Until we had to go back to school and everyone had to face the fact that we did absolutely ZERO preparation for this week because we played too hard.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

I Spend the Majority of my Day With Turtles

      My time in China is flying by so quickly it almost makes my last semester of college seem slow.  Speaking of slow: I used to think that turtles were pretty slow (especially considering how many we would catch on canoe trips or rescue from the drivers on the road in AR) but the turtles here are anything but slow.  We have class turtles.  Meet Lovely, Cutie, and Chris.  (I'm 99% sure that Chris is the only girl turtle.    Wild China strikes again.)

These turtles are ALWAYS really active and if there is ever a quiet moment in class (which is rare since students are rarely quiet) you can hear them quietly (and kind of desperately) trying to escape their cages.  That or they just really enjoy futile exercise and banging their heads and claws against glass tanks.

Anyway, that really has nothing to do with my life except for the fact that I spend a solid portion of my life in that classroom.  A lot of times I even end up saying after school until at least 7 or maybe 8 to prepare for the next day.

When it comes to a list of constants in my life that I can depend on it would go like this:

1) endless prep work for teaching or marking
2) Those three turtles hanging out with me in the room and trying to escape.

3) The 7 girls I live with + my professor and her family (No, Mom, this is not a picture from the time my roommates and I randomly found the door to the roof open.)

4) The highlight of the cafeteria food being the fruit (which I'm not actually supposed to eat until I wash it myself.) Or sometimes when I think I'm eating fruit (in this oatmeal stuff [congee?] but it's actually squash. Or something.                                                                                                                                         

5) Flavored milk. 

[Sorry this post is pretty random, but I suppose it's only fair to give you an honest peak into my life.]

 Some days the students make me question my entire professional career choice and some days I think I'm about to cry at the thought that I only have about 2 weeks left with these kids.  For example, yesterday during the Math test one kid forgot to do the bonus so the conversation went like this:

Me: "Hey, don't you want to try the bonus?"
Him: "Oh ya." *He gets to work.*

Other teacher: "Hey, are you trying the bonus?"
Him: "I not trying. I'm sure!"
You sure have to respect that confidence. Especially since he did not get the bonus.. 

Today I went to a wet market for the first time.  The vendors were not wet. The fruit was not wet. The market was not wet.   Altogether very disappointing.  Well, it would have been anyway if it weren't for the amazing selection of fruit. I saw another cucumber looking thing that weighs more than my new niece and is bigger than her too.

Since I love lists here's another one titled "Things I've grown to appreciate in China."
*When I wake up in the morning and I don't have any new bug bites from the night it's a cause for celebration (or at least a new reason to be grateful) whereas in America I don't think twice about it.
*When my lunch food or dinner food includes something that isn't cooked in oil.
*Good grammar.  Although I appreciate the English here too. In fact, it kills me on the daily.
*A way to dry my clothes besides hanging them up in my room. (Although I do find that a nice musty smells works wonders with keeping the boys away.  Oh wait, there aren't any boys here.   :)
*The people I left behind.  Having to work through a time difference to communicate with people makes me work harder and actually have to plan a time to talk to people.
*I love the freedom of not having a cell phone so if plans change I can simply go home and claim that I didn't know what was going on (which is generally true.) It's so nice to not be able to be held responsible.
*Peanut butter
*Really any kind of chocolate
*Buying 2 different drinks and only spending $1.
*Strangers talking to me simply because we are both not Asian.
 I met one of my student's mom. She is from Japan so I tried to talk to her a little bit in Japanese (not too much, obviously, or else she would realize that I'm not as good as she thinks.) I met her once at a birthday party, once at a class BBQ, and one last time at the school art show. The next day her daughter came to school with a package of random things (like sunscreen and vegetable juice) and her email. Apparently she wants me to email her, but about what I'm still unsure.  Good impression:nailed it!

I got home from school the other night around 8 pm and I had just started working with my partner on a homework assignment when my professor knocks on the door.  She claimed now was one of those "Chiense experiences that you just have to not miss out on."  So I put down my laptop and headed out the door.  There were about 4 of us outside plus my professor and her daughter.  There was another random Chinese street performance happening (I think I may have described this happening in an earlierp post.) Anyway, it was pretty cool but pretty much what I saw last time. My initial reaction was "Oh cool, but I've seen this before so I won't stay long."  However, the lady who was conducting the music had a different reaction when she saw us. It was something along the lines of "Americans! I need to get them involved in what's happening ASAP!" So then she said something to the band and they all struggled to come up with a song that we could sing along to.  Which is how the 6 of us ended up singing Happy Birthday (to no one in particular) in the middle of a whole crowd of anonymous Chinese people. After about 2 rounds of the song they stopped playing and I think everyone was a little unsure of what was expected in the awkward silence that followed.  Well, apparently, our mediocre singing wasn't sufficient (to satisfy the lady or scare her away) and somehow we got pulled further into the crowd and onto center stage. Center stage here being my fancy performance jargon meaning the middle of a pack of Asian street performers and audience members. With the lethal combination of their miming abilities and our interpretative abilities we realized they wanted to dance. Sadly, expectations and abilities do not always match up.  After a minute or two of awkward dancing which was possibly more awkward than any church dance I've ever been to, my professor stepped in to save us.  Or at least that's what I thought she was doing, until she had us all do the chicken dance.  (Well, there goes our opportunities to be good ambassadors for America.)  Here we are, 5 random white girls doing the chicken dance in rural China-which by the way the chicken dance does NOT go with any music besides the chicken dance song.  Now imagine us doing it to random Chinese blue grass/folk music. Yet, amazingly, even that wasn't enough to scare them off (or it could have been one of those situations where its like a train wreck and you just can't look away) and we ended up doing the Can Can too.  Luckily our dancing repetoires are large and impressive and we had these 2 classic ones to fall back on.  So those 10 minutes where I was expecting a rather calm period of observing the natural way of China turned into a rather unforgettable night for most of us there-including the numberous Chinese people who took videos and photos.
Anyway, it was one of those times in my life where Wild China definitely struck again.  Also I wish I could dance.

Sorry that I don't have the video myself, but I tried to use my professors. Hopefully this link will work for you all.

Professor's instagram

or try going to my facebook


Sunday, June 7, 2015

A typical day in the life of a pookie living in China.

  • I spent this first weird week where my body would naturally wake itself up at like 5:30 am.  I'm blaming jet lag-or maybe I should be thanking it? It's kind of nice to not need an alarm.  Anyway, that phase is over. Apparently I'm all adjusted and back to almost sleeping through my alarm.  Now a days I wake up around 7 am and catch the 7:45 am bus to school.  The buses here are just as crowded as you may imagine a China bus to be. (That is if you are imagining a can of sardines but with people inside a bus.) Also my breakfast ranges from American cereal which I occasionally have to eat with chopsticks because all of the silverware is dirty to random Chinese fruits. It's the best of both worlds.

  • The school day is fun. Picture kids in yellow uniforms everywhere, 2 hour lunch breaks where most of the Easter teachers take naps, and school cafeteria food which ranges from delicious steamed buns to pig snouts.
  • Twice a week after school I go play soccer or volleyball in an attempt to not feel lazy and to bond with my fellow teachers.  So far I have not quite managed to not end up on the floor during a game (regardless of the sport.) However,that is the end goal. 
  • Sometimes it's fun to walk home because (if you can survive crazy Chinese traffic. Just kidding Mom! [but really])  the view is beautiful.  The sky is either bright blue or pouring buckets of rain on you. Both of which are fine by me.  The foliage is a nice shade of green that I'm not sure Utah ever really manages to achieve and is only in Arkansas during the bright points of summer.  The route home takes me by a serene lake/pond (?) which has random gazebos out in the middle on islands.  Very picturesque and inaccessible. (Trust me, I've tried.)  You will also pass a plethora of people outside doing a smorgasbord of random activities such as choreographed dancing, kids running wild ("playing"), some random man doing a trick that can only be an obscure hobby or practice for joining the circus, and people doing tai chi-just to name a few.
  • Once home the first order of business is either a shower (because the green foliage isn't the only thing China has in common with Arkansas summers) or a trip to the convenience store.  The new game I like to play is 'What Can I buy at the corner store for 7 RMB?' (Note: that is about $1.)  If I'm feeling really irresponsible I'll splurge and spend 9 RMB for a piece of chocolate cake and a bottle of milk.   [If I don't make it back to America it will be because I've decided I i cannot go without flavored milk and easily accessible milk in a glass bottle.] Can you imagine a piece of cake and some milk for the equivalent of $1.50?!  I've hit the Chinese jackpot.

  • The night generally ends with me trying to convince myself to be productive and lesson plan for the next day or caving into the natural desires of a bibliophile and reading a book while ignoring all responsibilities.  On a good night I compromise with myself and alternate productivity with a chapter of reading.  Don't worry though-the reading is definitely not hindering my ability to experience China. I still go out and see the sights, explore the city, and eat the cheap, sketchy food. 
  • Hit REPEAT.
Now everyone is as informed as they could possibly want to be about my daily life.