Sunday, September 19, 2010

Living Room in the Far East

I decided to participate in Kelly's Korner Show Us Your Life...Living Rooms. I know I am really late, but better late than never right?!?!

Living in China I wanted to make my apartment feel like isn't quite like home, but it is my home for the time being. It's a place I love to relax and entertain. It's very simple, but I like it. I'm thankful to have a western style apartment, it is a palace compared to the apartments here. I guess my "theme" for the room is memories and travel. I have been collecting artwork at all the different places I've gone. :)

This is the view from my front door. All the furniture came with the apartment and my contract. It is pretty comfortable and a neutral color. I can definitely deal with free furniture!

The painting above my couch is from the dirt market in Beijing. I love the colors and dress of the little child. It is a traditional outfit for a minority group in China. I got it framed here in Dalian, Jess found a great framer for super cheap. I think the custom frame was less than $30 USD!

The artwork on the left I picked up in Thailand. It is carved out of cow's hide (spelling?) and was made by hand. I picked the elephant to remind me of my ride on the elephant when I was there. The one on the right is also from Thailand. I loved how simple it was. Had to get my Furman quilt in that Mama Scott made...I love curling up with it on the couch and also the memories of it.

This is the view from the corner of the room looking at the TV wall. I am still looking for a great piece of artwork to hang on it. I am hoping to find one in India or Shanghai this week!

The bookshelf is filled with pictures and books, reminding me of home and my loved ones. I can't forget my rockband set, I love to have friends over and have jam sessions. It is great in the winter when it is cold!

Of course I had to put a picture of my fishies. It's nice to have some pets. They are easy to take care of and make me happy.

Beautiful Weather

After last year I know that I need to take full advantage of the warm weather before it gets cold. The past two weekends it has been gorgeous. We have been taking walks and enjoying the gorgeous sunshine, we are definitely not the only ones.

Pretty flowers

Golden Pebble Beach

We stopped and chatted with this man and his friend who was catching crabs

One of the many couples we saw getting their wedding pictures taken

Fishing...a pastime no matter where you are in the world

Korean Bulgogi

The other night I made bulgogi, a Korean dish for all of us. I first tasted it last year when one of Jess' students brought it in. It was so yummy so I asked her for the recipe. Well not only did she give me the recipe (from her mom, she had to translate it for me) but she also gave me all of the ingredients. She bought me the meat, vegetables, sauces, and even the asian pear it called for. I was so shocked! Diana made it super easy for me to make, she translated it with pictures. I followed them step by step and viola!

Notice how my chinese

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First Year Reflections

Recently, I reread my a letter to myself before I came to China to make myself realize how blessed I am and how real this is. Sometimes I forget how cool it is that I am living on the other side of the world. Things that used to be so out of the ordinary have now become ordinary. I want to write a letter to myself for this next year in China and also reflecting on my first year...

(Fireworks are always going off, for luck, superstitions, and to keep evil away)

Dear self,
This past year was filled with adventures. You arrived after a whirlwind trip and slowly adjusted. While others were quick to jump into trying new foods you hung back and didn't push your luck. You quickly formed connections with Veronica and Kara. Hang on to their friendship, they will be there for you when you need it. You stayed up late eagerly waiting phone calls from friends and family members that you missed. When you talked to them you didn't let them know how much you missed them because secretly you were wondering if you did the right thing. Your doubts would be quickly washed away. You found a church with great fellowship and just what you needed being so far from home. Your friendships quickly went from friends to your family through the experiences in a new culture.

(An everyday sight at the Golden Pebble Beach)

You will take your first vacation to Thailand and fall in love with the culture, food, and people. In Thailand you will become close with "the crew" and experience many new things. You will learn to forgive yourself and accept people that are different than you. We are all God's children and it will become more and more apparent to you throughout your travels. You will learn Halloween in China is an extravagant ordeal, mainly because us expats cling to the American holidays as a way to fight homesickness. You will turn 27 in China and learn that just because you are away from loved ones that you have your own family here. Although you have formed a family with the ones in your life it still won't be the same as it is with your family. Thanksgiving was hard for you, you stayed strong and didn't let your family know because you knew your mom would get sad that you were upset.

(Beautiful Thailand)

You made your first trek to Brooklyn and renewed your energy before heading home for Christmas. It will become your mecca for good western food when you have cravings. Before heading home for Christmas you will enjoy your first Chinese wedding. There you will open up to Jess, you won't know it, but a bond was formed and will continue to grow. When you arrive back in the States you will be OVERWHELMED with all the choices and conveniences. You will realize how blessed America is as a country and how much we take it for granted. Christmas in the States will be amazing and you will spend all the time you can with the people you love. You will meet Matthew for the first time and be charmed by his cuteness. After almost two weeks at home you will be sad to leave, but know that you are doing the best thing for you. The flight back to LA will be hard, you will be by yourself and thinking you don't want to go back. But once you see the faces of friends at LAX you will feel secure again.

(Judy and Gomer's wedding in Beijing)

You will fly to Harbin to see the city of ice. You will start the New Year off with a bang, and your crew. Jess and you will pick up where you left off and become "official". It will still be freezing, but after the first three months of bitter cold you know what to expect. Winter will pass with bowling, card games, movies, nights in Kai Fai Que, dinners with the crew, babysitting, and of course work.

(Polar Bear swimmers in Harbin)

You will be relieved to go to Malaysia, it will be a much needed get away. After Malaysia the Great Wall 1/2 Marathon will come up before you know it. It will be an amazing experience, one that you will remember for a lifetime. Jess will break-up with you and you will be hurt, more than you can imagine. It will turn out to be good. God will show you how to act and give you peace. Don't worry, it won't be for long that you are sad. You will learn that you are okay by yourself and that you aren't perfect. After two weeks Jess and you will be back together and stronger than before :) The end of the year will fly by and before you know it, you will have finished your first year of international teaching.

(Petronas Towers in Malaysia)

You will not only be a teacher, you will also be a student. Your students will melt your heart and remind you why you got into teaching in the first place. You will laugh with them, have plenty of heart to hearts, and create projects you never dreamed of assigning. You will see first hand the difference it makes when parents are involved in their children's education. You will become the student and learn from your students and experience your studentsmaking a difference. Your colleagues will teach you that we only have one earth and to take care of it, something you had never really thought about before. I wish I could tell you to cherish the times with them, even when they do get on your nerves, because next year you won't be in the classroom and you WILL miss those connections you had with them.

(The Great Wall)

You will look back at your first year and believe it or not you will not focus on all about the trips, fun, and friends. It will be about you. The process of finding yourself again. You will learn to love again, not just others, but most importantly yourself. You will know God has you here for a purpose and He will open up your eyes to others around you. You will feel more blessed than you were before you came to China, even without the clothes, conveniences, great food, etc. You get to see the world, and not just the world others see when they go on vacation, you will get to see the REAL world. People bathing in streams, kids playing with dirt, dogs that don't have owners, beggars on the streets, and so much more. Your heart will be broken by poverty like you have never seen, you will feel guilty, but then you will watch the people and see that they are happy. They are content with their lives and that will shock you. How can someone be happy with nothing? It's just be. Take pleasures in the small things, be grateful for what you have, be kind to those that come into your life, love others because we are all one. That's how you do it. Your feeling of guilt will be replaced by the desire to be like them. You will appreciate God's creation more and see the beauty of his handiwork. You will begin to judge less and feel more. It will be a journey, one you won't ever complete, but isn't that what life is about? Striving to be more like Christ. So take it all in, you are only here for a little. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain

(Friends for life)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Evening in Jin Shi Tan

I took this picture while walking to Back to School night...


I remember a time last year where a student of mine had a dark purple mark on his neck. Being used to DSS in the States I quickly went to Sid, my principal, thinking he was beaten at home. She just laughed and said he had a cupping done. I had no clue what it was, so I looked it up. After reading up on it, of course I then constantly saw people with perfect dark purple circles on their bodies. I was curious ever since. Last week Jess got "cupped" and I have to admit I was a little curious. I wondered what it felt like and being the competitive (crazy) person I am wondered if I could take the pain.

Now fast forward to Saturday. I was picking out what massage I wanted at my favorite massage place in Dalian and saw cupping on the menu. Why not go for it? I got my hour and a half massage and then he brings in these glass jars (almost like mason jars). I didn't look, but I had seen the process before at Fairy's place so I knew what was coming. He lit something and next thing I know I am feeling like an octopus' prey being sucked up by tentacles. It didn't really hurt at first, I was laughing because it tickled a little. But, the longer those glasses stayed suctioned to me the more pressure I felt. It was never super painful, just a little uncomfortable. Right when he put some on the man said "not good...poison". It turned purple immediately (or so I was told since I couldn't feel it). For 15 minutes I laid there and concentrated on my breathing. If I took a super deep breath, I would hear the cups clanging together. It was a good pain, like stretching when you aren't flexible. It hurts, but also feels good.

If you look at the two on each side that are the furthest out, those are the darkest and the ones that turned dark immediately. The top ones are barely visible.

The best part of it was when he popped them off. I counted 15...and then I was done with my first cupping. I am not sure the benefits, I was congested before and am not anymore. I am sleeping better, so who knows maybe the East knows a thing or two about medicine. Now who knows how long these things will last...

A close up...