Sunday, August 22, 2010

Epilogue: We Can Do It!

Coming home was fantastic.  I was welcomed by my loving, supportive family and an enormous painted banner on my front door and this great piece of creativity added to my room:
You might know that I love to do puzzles, and this was the last one I did before I left for China (I believe I actually finished it just hours before leaving for the airport).  It now hangs on the back of my bedroom door and I think sums up the summer pretty well.  Out of all the things I learned in China this summer, this will stick with me the longest.  We Can Do It!

Day 70: Bitter Sweets

            Well, today was my last day at work, tonight’s my last night at the Motel 168 and tomorrow is the last time I’ll buy baozi from Baozi Lady on Shangcheng Lu. But, tomorrow is also my first time back in America after my little stint in China, the first time I’ll get to use facebook without fearing for my legal security, and, best of all, the first time in more than a year that I get to be with my entire family (all 6 of them) for over a month!  So you can see how this occasion is a little bitter sweet (leaning towards sweet). 
            I appreciate a good Shanghainese farewell.  It goes a little like this: blue skies and pretty decent weather with not too crazy humidity, lunch with two random coworkers who I’ve never met in my life but seem sad that we’re leaving, ceremonial moving of the Boston room sign from “occupied” to “vacant”, a quick RMB conversion at the Bank of Williams, a final walk home from work and a final wink at the construction workers who ALWAYS stare at us as we walk by, a broken motel key card (4th time it’s happened in two days), a call from the front desk at Motel 168 two hours later telling me I don’t have enough money in my account to pay for the room for one final night (I’ve stayed here for 71 nights, give me a break, you can’t give me one for free?), everything fitting quite snuggly into my three suitcases, and a final teeth brushing with the delicious Huangpu river water.  Sounds like an appropriate end of a most Chinese summer. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 67 (Two Days Left): Ode to Privos

Ode to Privos

To my black “dress” shoes,
You walked a mile to work every day
Through mud and rain and pints of sweat;
You made me feel older and indirectly confirmed that beauty is pain.
Remember when I betrayed you for those feminine high heels?
You never even said “I told you so”.
You were the grandma I couldn’t bring to Shanghai.
Every traveler deserves someone like you.

To my brown “everyday” shoes,
There’s really nothing “everyday” about you.
If I had one pair of shoes on a desert island, I would choose you.
You toughened up my heels like no other shoe has,
You’re worth much more than 70 dollars to me.
From the fake market to Yan’an and from Expo to the Yellow River,
All our trekking was your equivalent of a mile-long warm up run.
I just gave you five stars on

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 64: The Crazy Things Going on in Shanghai This Weekend

1. Seeing my uncle sitting in front of me in the Shanghai branch of the LDS church. That was a serious trip, but so great to see a familiar (literally) face. You just don’t expect to see your uncle in your branch in Shanghai, that’s just common knowledge.

2. Making dumplings and spring rolls with my wonderful friend Chenru and her family!! I feel like it was a very significant moment in my Chinese cultural experience. I also learned how to make sweet and sour pork and an egg and tomato dish that is pretty popular in China.

3. Meeting up for dinner with one of my new roommates for next year, Yang yang. We had a great time and I am quite excited for our trips to Chinatown in Seattle this year.

4. Fourth (but not final) trip to the Shanghai Science and Technology fake market. I’m not really sure why I love this place so much but I do. Of course, I bought plenty of things I didn’t need and got totally ripped off but I still find it very entertaining. I also bought a new large suitcase there that was much needed to get all my souvenirs home. Friday evening will be spent playing a game of real life tetris as I try to make everything fit.

5. Picking up my last load of laundry from Aping Washclothes. Though they overcharge me, I love them. Pretty much anything is better than doing laundry in my sink with no laundry detergent. Also- the little kids (presumably the children of Aping) there were watching Dora the Explorer. I sang “I’m the Map” in English while it was playing in Chinese, which I thought was hilarious, but I think the kids were just freaked out.

6. Running out of Herbal Essences conditioner. This may seem very insignificant, but trust me, this is a very big deal. Herbal Essences has kept me sane here in Asia and I think we make a pretty good team. I think this is a sign that I’ve been in China long enough.

7. And of course, realizing that I can now count the days until I’m home on one hand!! As much as I love China, I’m excited to go home and see my family (and Mr. Conditioner).

Friday, August 13, 2010

Day 62: Things I'll Miss, Part I

Dear Baozi Lady,

Thank you for remembering that I like 2 of the baozi with green vegetables inside every morning at 6:30. Thank you for accepting me even when I wear my large floral pajama pants and no bra. Most importantly, thank you for saving me from the disgusting ham-pineapple-pork-mayonnaise pastries I would otherwise have at work. I would like to invite you back to America with me because I’m not sure I’ll be able to live the rest of my life without you.


Monday, August 9, 2010

FIELD TRIP Post 2: Pictures

Here are thirteen of my favorite pictures from the trip. If ten isn’t enough for you, feel free to drop by my house in less than two weeks!
1. This wouldn’t be a true picture post without a picture of a cute Chinese baby. I love that she was walking around with the fly swatter.

2. This is a 5000 year old tree located by the Yellow Emperor’s tomb. I thought it was sort of cheating because it actually needed iron supports to keep it up, but I guess it’s earned them.

3. This was far and away the best statue I saw on the trip. A little evidence that the Order of the Phoenix had an Asian branch.

4. These were our children tour guides at the historical sites in Yanan. They were pretty amazing, this kid gave great explanations of the sites, spoke pretty good English, and then busted out some Yanan folk songs. Note the residence of Mao Zedong in the background.

5. This is a real child doing real calligraphy. One of the days in Yanan we visited a private elementary school and private middle school. These visits were some of the highlights of the trip, the kids were so cute and all wanted me to sign their notebooks. If I could go back to Yanan, I would probably spend at least five times as long with these kids.

6. A sampling of our food in Yanan. There are a few things to notice: First, the glass of orange juice in front of me. I drank at least a gallon of orange juice in four days in Yanan, and I don’t particularly like orange juice. But it was the best option. Second, the plate of fish second from the left. They brought it to us, we ate some, and then they came back, took it away and brought it back a second time cooked. Whoops, that seems like a pretty big thing to forget, don’t you think? Third, the plate being placed on the moving circle is fried dough. I wasn’t kidding when I said we had every kind of starch imaginable. Fourth, the orange dish towards the right is nan gua, or pumpkin. They love it here and we had many variations of this dish.

7. This is the farm at which we ate lunch on our way to the Yellow River. It was also home to the most uncomfortable bathroom experience I think I’ve ever have and ever hope to have.

8. This is me with one of the sweet students from Yanan University, Connie, who accompanied us on all of our sightseeing. She was literally one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and embraced me like I was her best friend for four days in Yanan. It was a little sad to say goodbye.

9. This is a pretty good representation of Xi’An: white sky (thank you pollution), pagoda, McDonalds, trees. That’s about the flavor. It’s not my favorite city ever, but very different than what I see regularly in Shanghai so that was nice change I guess.

10. This is the Yanan tower, an iconic image of Yanan. I think there is some kind of history behind this tower, but I have a very hard time listening to people who have to pause every few words to be translated into English. I’m sure it has a great history, though.

11. The first pit of the Terra-cotta Warriors. The 8th wonder of the man-made world? I’m not so sure, but it was pretty cool to see. The tomb was raided shortly after the emperor died, which is why so many of them are shattered.

12. The scenery on the way to the Yellow River was gorgeous, this picture does absolutely no justice to it.

13. This is me at the Yellow River waterfall, taken by our resident semi-professional photographer, Evan. It was cool to see this river and realize how responsible it was for beginning Chinese civilization. It was a little dirty, so I decided not to jump in to go for a swim, though it definitely was hot enough for that.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

FIELD TRIP Post 1: Where Do I Begin?

There’s no good way of getting out all of the things that I wish I could say about the past nine days, they were definitely some great ones. I’ll probably steer away from the generic descriptions that, let’s be honest, aren’t that interesting. We stuck pretty closely to the rough schedule that I posted last week, so you can refer to that, but I’ll try to expand a little more. Today, let’s talk in superlatives:
Best food/meal: Cut mini cucumbers in some ridiculous garlic/vinegar sauces. I think I ate the equivalent of six mini cucumbers in one sitting. Other than that, though, Shaanxi province food isn’t my favorite. It’s very dense and they like to shove all grains imaginable into a meal with very little meat. You end up eating three or four mantou (basically rolls but very dense) and noodles and rice and potatoes and corn bread and other starchy things. There were some delicious mashed potatoes with onions in Yanan, though.
Best part of Yanan culture: Folk singing. And waist drumming. And paper cutting. Okay, I like it all. It’s really neat how involved everyone is with the culture, they are all so proud of it and were so excited to demonstrate it all to us students. The people demonstrating weren’t professionals; they were just regular Yanan residents who were proud of their heritage and wanted to share it with us. Honestly, the pride that I saw in Yanan put the US to shame.

Favorite Shaanxi Folk Song: Dong Fang Hong or “The East is Red”. It really captures the Yanan spirit, but I actually really like this song. Especially when it starts talking about Mao Zedong. There’s really no way for me to describe this song, I can basically only hope that some of my camera recordings were good enough for you to understand a little bit of the experience. Trust me, if all you knew of Chinese revolution was based on this song, you would be ready to revolt. Guaranteed.

Most uncomfortable moment: Let’s talk for a minute about toilets. They are wonderful creations, even if they are technically dirtier than ditches. So my most uncomfortable moment was using the “bathroom” at the farm on the way to the Yellow River. No stalls, no privacy, no flush, basically just a stone platform with holes. I have added it to my “conquered” list.

Best bus ride: Ride to the Yellow River. Incredibly windy, but I was surprisingly okay and the scenery was beautiful! I felt like I was somewhere in South America rather than Northwestern China.
Best motion sickness drug: Dramamine!! Don’t ask how many of these pills I took.

Best souvenir: My waist drum from the Yanan communist government! They gave every student a full sized waist drum complete with sash at our opening dinner. The best part of these drums is that they have our faces and names painted on them. Oh, Yanan.
Most lasting impression: Yanan took amazing care of us. We were escorted by police everywhere we went, the mayor of the city spent a ridiculous amount of time with us, we were all given waist drums, we were housed in their nicest hotel, the mayor sent her people to all of the restaurants we planned on visiting to test the food, the entire hotel staff greeted us upon our arrival, the mayor saw us off on our way to Xi An, and we were treated so hospitably in so many other ways. We talked in our small group discussions (more on these later) about why they were willing to do that for us and whether or not we deserved it. We concluded that, even though we definitely did not merit such care, the people of Yanan were so willing to treat us so well because they were so proud of their culture and so excited to share it with us. There’s no way I can describe how welcomed these people made us feel and I can definitely say that I’ve never seen anything like it in the states. I was really, really touched by the Yanan people I got to know and, honestly, I would go back in a heartbeat.

It’s safe to say that I had a great time. As much as I thought I would never say this, I think Yanan will always have a little piece of my heart. The community is so alive there, infinitely more alive than Shanghai, even though it has a very small fraction of the people; it definitely created a lasting impression on me.