Wednesday, June 24, 2015

TAISHAN - Weekend trip

At the end of April, I was able to take a quick trip one weekend to Mount Tai (泰山). It is located in a quaint little town in Shandong province just about 2 hours outside of Beijing by high speed train.  It is one of the Sacred Mountains in China. It’s also the mountains on the back of the 5 kuai bill here – I found this out AFTER I went here so I don’t have a good picture of it.

With that being said, there are lots of people who come and visit this mountain, however I only saw about 5 other foreigners (white people) while hiking this mountain. I surely heard the word ‘外国人’(foreigner) over 100 times. One time, the couple who said it started guessing where I was from in Chinese and I just replied back saying ‘America’ in Chinese, and they were so embarrassed.

Since so many people hiking up this mountain, they have stands along the way of fruits, bottled beverages, instant noodles, but also full meals at restaurants. Of course as you get higher, the prices go up as well. I mean these guys do need to get paid for their extremely hard work! 

I figured when I got to the top, there wouldn’t be that much, but I was wrong. It’s like a whole town up there! They have motels, restaurants, souvenir shops, and lots of trails to explore. I decided to sleep on the top to see the sunrise. I sure did choose the right motel to stay with because they were so friendly, had great food and woke us up for the sunrise. They even had a secret viewing area that they like to take people to. I was real thankful for this because there were so many people that decided to sleep on the top, and many of them slept outside (I would have if I wasn't starting to get sick.) They rent out these awesome green jackets to use as a sleeping bag basically and keep you warm at night. 

On the way down, my legs felt like jelly but I honestly was scared at first. This one section was SO steep and seemed never ending. My legs were shaking and I'm not even afraid of heights.

If you thought the Chinese squatter toilets were bad, try using them when your legs are extremely sore from climbing a giant mountain. That’s surely a hard task to overcome! In the end, I’m so thankful I was able to squeeze this trip in because I met some awesome people and was able to take some time to think about my life. Now I’ve made some changes which have in turn made me happier here in Beijing and allow me to fully appreciate this opportunity I have here in China! Here are some of the pictures from the trip - enjoy!

And that's my face saying 'YEA, I DID IT!'

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Parenting - The Chinese Way

By no means am I an expert in this topic because I have never studied this nor do I have a child of my own. I’m merely talking about my observations here in China.

To start off, Chinese babies are so lucky! They are truly loved, appreciated and can get anything they want because typically they’re the only child. Now at my school, this isn’t always the case but I’ve noticed the same amount of love and attention as I have with only child families.

On the flip side, Chinese babies are spoiled beyond belief and can barely do things on their own. I have parents (or grandparents even) that come into class with their kids, unzip their jacket, and get their books out of their bags for their children – their children can be anywhere from 3 to 11 years old and yet they still do this. There is no sense of independence for these kids.

Now, don’t get me started on how some children take this to the extreme by crying, yelling, and screaming. They cannot go through class without their mom there or saying how they miss their mom the whole time. I have heard a story about a mom who brings an extra pair of shoes when she drops her child off. This is to place in the crack of the door so that way her son thinks that she is right there, and she can go shopping in the mall during class. Don’t ask me what happens when he has to go to the bathroom and discovers just the shoe!

When it comes to crying though, there would never be a time where you see a parent who lets their kid just cry it out. The parent/grandparent will always come running and fix the problem whatever way they can. I guess I should say thanks for this one so I don’t experience as much crying – though I do experience a decent bit of it each week.

This dependence doesn’t only exist for the people who take care of them, it exists for water too. For some reason, they love drinking water and are constantly drinking it – warm water that is. In a 50-minutes class, I am bound to have at least 1 student who is dying for water and won’t participate until he gets his one sip of water.

As for the parent relationship between each other, from what I know so far, dates do not happen after people get married and have a kid. They aren't even considered. I've asked coworkers in this situation and they said 'Why should we have to go on a date?' The focus has now shifted from being husband and wife to being mother and father. They will do whatever they have to in order to have their child have a happy and successful life, and that's all that matters!

In the end, this just all creates the close family bonds that most Chinese families have. Once the children grow up, they are typically so grateful for their mom and dad, but more so their grandparents because those are the people that ended up raising them.

That’s where my point of my blog lies today – being thankful for parents and family. I could not be here in my life if it wasn’t for my family, specifically my parents. They made such a sacrifice to raise me and allow me to find myself by traveling the world. I can never say thank you enough for that. I mean I’ve been to over ten countries, have a bachelor’s degree and a full time job, and can live on my own halfway across the world. How many people can say that?

Although life may not end up how you originally foresaw it to, you have no reason to not be thankful for the life you have been given to you and the people who have impacted you in various ways throughout it all.

So thanks goes to all those people out there who have impacted me in some way.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Monsters Arrived

It’s been 2 months with no update – I apologize for the lack of blog posts!

Here’s what has been going on with my life. Wake up, eat, go to work, eat, keep working, eat, go home, sleep. Pretty exciting, huh? Then on my off days, I catch up on my much needed sleep, go to lunch with some friends, explore somewhere new in Beijing, watch some Netflix, and order food in. 

Of course, I attend the teacher events my company offers like a painting class and the annual party, but besides that, I have realized that I am now used to the working life here in China now.

Oh, but yesterday there was the biggest sandstorm that Beijing has seen in 13 years, apparently, and I didn’t even know it was happening until the day after. Check out some of the awesome pictures that showed up on WeChat (messaging app) because of this crazy storm.

(The city wasn't really attacked by these monsters - just to be clear. The pictures were modified by someone who has too much free time on their hands but has a great sense of humor)

Within what feels like a blink of an eye, I’m now approaching the 9-month marker of this year long contract – AKA time to decide what to do with my life. As most twenty-something-year-olds, this is one of the scariest questions to be asked, yet I feel as though it is the question that I get asked the most. The answer changes every day, every hour, and sometimes every minute. I catch myself talking to my roommates about this all the time, bringing up new ideas each time. I sometimes think the people asking the question are like the monsters in those pictures hounding me for an answer!

I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m making enough money to pay for student loans, live a happy and healthy life, and even save a decent amount (which some people don't manage at all) all while living in one of the largest cities in the world. What more could I ask for? Yeah, sometimes the job gets to be a bit much, but that’s for any job. My coworkers keep it fun for the most part, and the company has so many advancement opportunities – I’d say I have it pretty good.

I’m going to try and keep this updated more than once every two months with more cultural things that I have become accustomed to or even just interesting stories about my everyday life. Stay tuned!

*Update on the Chinese names blog – a girl has started a company to help Chinese people pick out English names for a small fee so they won’t end up with stripper names like the ones I mentioned in a previous post. Pretty smart idea - check it out! 

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Puzzle I Call The Chinese Language

The Chinese language is an interesting one. One that I find to be intriguing but at the same time so frustrating. It’s like a puzzle that I cannot quite solve yet. Here are just some of the many differences I have noticed with the language.
  1. No verb conjugation. AT ALL. This is by far my favorite part. You just add a word that shows the various tense, but the verb never changes.
  2. There are 10 different meanings for the same word. It all depends on the tone. You have to hear whether the tone is one constant pitch, is rising and then falling or what. A lot of times, you just know by the context of the conversation.
  3. There are so many dialects of Chinese that typically use the same written form but complete different spoken form. Sometimes, they can understand the ‘standard’ version of Chinese, and then reply back in their dialect which is just oh so helpful!
  4. They like to repeat things a lot. If they say ‘OK’, they will often say it three to ten times. I’m not quite sure why, but this happens so much.
  5. My favorite part of the language is hearing a phone call end. There is a lot of ‘mm’ ‘hao’ ‘bye’ and ‘xing’ sounds that happen and of course more than once. It takes a good minute to even two minutes just to confirm the phone call is ending in a serious of repeated noises by each caller.
  6. The written language itself is my favorite. The characters normally build off of each other. For example, if you see 电 it means electricity, so then 电脑 means electrical brain or computer. As for pronunciation, you pretty much need to know the character in order to try and pronounce it which is rather frustrating.

This all leads up to me saying that I have a love/hate relationship with Chinese. I have been trying to improve my skills each and every day, but I just feel as though I've been at this plateau.

With that being said, I would like to announce this new language learning opportunity that I have received! I will be going to Brazil and volunteering for the Olympics in 2016, and so now I will start learning Portuguese!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What's Your Name?

Since today marks the day of 6 months being in China, I have been reflecting a lot on my experience thus far. Then, it hit me that I haven’t updated you all on the funny names that I have encountered here. Some of these you will not believe but NONE of them are made up. I have/had students named all of these names:

 1.       Fairy

2.       Birdy

3.       ABC (yes, that’s pronounce by just saying the letters ‘a’ ‘b’ ‘c’)

4.       Dudu (this one is simply their Chinese name but it sounds terrible in English)

5.       Seven

6.       Puker (like thrower upper)

7.       Kitty

8.       Tiger

9.       Wolf

10.   Apple

11.   Candy

12.   Feynman

It’s always interesting when the students choose to keep their Chinese name like Dudu did. I have some students I have to call Yuanyuan, Taozi, Cici, and Diandian. No matter what their names are, they are all so cute and keep class interesting each and every time. I feel like I have such a strong bond with each of my classes now, even some of the newer ones. I cannot wait to see what the next 6 months will hold as some of the classes will be ‘graduating’ and moving up to the next level! Maybe by then they will let me give them a proper English name.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My New Home Away From Home

Recently, I joined a gym which by no means is a New Year’s Resolution! The gym is actually in the same apartment complex that I live in, but I never knew it was there. After a friend told me about it, I chose to go gym hunting with my roommate (with only 6 months left, it’s the best time to get a membership as gyms only do by the year or 6th months). We looked at 3 different gyms, and this one was the cheapest and has a pool – I’m a little bit of a water baby. I slept on the idea of spending a decent chunk of money on a gym and decided that it was time to do something besides watch Netflix in my free time.

The main reason that I decided to join the gym was because I love challenges. Now, most people think of challenges when it comes to gyms as challenging themselves to reach certain physical goals. My challenge is being able to understand what these people are trying to say to me. The workers at this gym speak ZERO English. Okay, I take that back. They can say “Hello!” and love to do that whenever they see me, but besides that, I have to resort to using my Chinese. After I paid, they introduced me to my personal trainer, which took me a while to have me understand who exactly she was. Then, she starts talking to me in such a soft hushed voice that’s going a mile a minute (I’m assuming she’s explaining how she can help me). All these new vocabulary words and situations gives me so many more opportunities to learn and practice my Chinese which ultimately made my decision to join the gym.

The first day of working out, I had to go swimming. Swimming just relaxes me, it’s such a good workout, it’s not necessarily too challenging, it reminds me of being a kid, need I go on? So I throw on my bikini and the next thing I know all of the other swimmers at 9:30 am are old Chinese men who just happen to only wear speedos. They were shocked to see a foreigner join them as we all swim laps, but that didn’t stop me, nor will it ever. I plan on going back tomorrow and swim a few laps as they continue to stare.

The aspect of this gym that is the hardest for me to handle is the confidence people have when they are naked within the locker room. Don’t get me wrong, I am confident with my body, almost too much so if you ask my mother. However, there is a point where it’s too much. These ladies like to stroll around and chat to each other completely in the nude. This is something that I will need to work on being accustomed to.

Finally, this gym offers free classes each day. Unfortunately with my work hours I cannot make it to most of them but on my two off days, I’ve decided to attend at least 2 classes. Today was my first. I went to spinning class. I’ve never done this before. It’s where you are on a stationary bike which you can adjust the resistance for. The teacher plays some music and then leads you through the workout by varying the resistance, sitting versus standing, bouncing to the beat, etc. Let’s just say, I will be going back to this every single week! I have never had so much fun working out before. Tomorrow I will be trying a yoga and belly dancing class. I will let you know how that goes.

Next time, I will get some pictures and post them so you all can see what my new home away from home looks like.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

新年快乐! Happy New Year!

With the start of 2015, everyone is talking about New Year’s resolutions and how you can be a better person. Well I’ve never been a fan of this theory because what makes this day so special? Why can’t you start achieving your dreams on December 31st? Any way, Amy Kauffman posted this great article on Facebook that I wanted to expand upon, and let everyone know how I have been living my life and will continue to do so in 2015. I’ve picked 8 off of the list of 36.

1. “3. Leave the country or go somewhere you’ve never been before. If you don’t have money, look into doing charity work abroad, some programs will sponsor you, otherwise you would be surprised where you can get with a bus ticket.”

  • Living abroad, especially in China is a big change that a big majority people in this world would not even dare to try. I am so glad that I took this leap of faith because you truly learn so much about yourself and how capable you are in this giant world. Don’t let anyone stop you or hold you back. Going abroad and living there is something that you will never forget. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone.

2. “5. Don’t focus on losing weight, just focus on being healthy. Think about what you are putting into your body and make time to exercise. Your body is your greatest asset, take care of it.”

  • In December, I started a workout plan just to stay motivated and focused. I try and do something every day. Yes, I have had days where I skipped my routine, but I get back on track the next day. Holding myself accountable to this schedule makes me miss less days. I also am more conscious of what I am eating and more importantly, how much I am eating. By no means do I want to lose weight, I just want to maintain my healthy lifestyle.

3. “8. Learn a new skill. There is always room for you to improve, but it doesn’t always have to be life changing. Don’t ever feel limited in your growth potential.”

  • You never know if you will be good at something until you try. These last few months I have been able to take part in many company events, one being archery. The last time I had shot an arrow was in high school, and it was nice trying out this hobby again, even just for a few hours. Archery isn’t for me though. My next task is going to be to learn how to arm knit. Keeping hobbies alive makes life interesting and entertaining!

4. “13. Learn to cook. Eating out every day is only going to make you wonder where your money went. Eventually, you will have to learn to take care of yourself, but it’s also a skill you can use to impress that special someone.”

  • This is my newest hobby. I’ve always loved to bake, but this last week I cooked my first steak by myself. I’ve taken a few cooking classes here in Beijing which has been nice to learn some Chinese food, but I love just experimenting in the kitchen to see what I can come up with next. I’m also working on putting together my own cookbook of recipes that I like.

5. “21. Wake up early. You will fall in love with just having quiet time for yourself. At 6 AM, there is no one to bother you so you can invest some time in yourself. It’s ridiculously hard at first, but it gets easier.”

  • Having work from 1:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays is nice; however, once I realized that if I sleep in until 11 a.m. every single day, then my whole day is wasted just on work. I’ve been following a personal rule to wake up before 8 a.m. every day and use the morning to be productive. I love my mornings now because I can choose to make a brunch date with the few people who actually want to or are free to partake, or I can just relax and enjoy my morning which is what I normally do. It makes a great start to the day.

6. “24. Read. If you were to write a book today, what would you write about? You would put everything you know into that book. People spend years writing some books but you can read it in a few hours. Reading is one of the best forms of mentorship, you have access to all the knowledge you need.”

  • This is my one resolution for the year. By the end of the year, I want to have read at least 50 books. I am just not sure if I will be able to handle that since I read rather slowly and everything else going on in life, so I am going to do small goals of reading one book every month. I also have an issue with setting my expectations rather high and then being disappointed when I don’t reach them. So this way I will exceed my expectations if I read 5 books one month or something. If you all have good book recommendations, please let me know!

7. “26. Practice meditation. Meditation is not about thinking of nothing. It helps build your awareness of your own thoughts and how you think about and treat others. With every distraction we have in this world, meditation helps you practice focus so you can appreciate being in the present.”

  • In 2014, I started to meditate. It has been helpful for me when I become worked up or anxious. Becoming one with your mind and focusing solely on breathing makes you feel so alive and in control. I like to wake up and either meditate or practice yoga. It helps that I have such an amazing few out my window that I can let my mind be at peace while staring at the beautifully crafted skyscrapers in front of me.

8. “34. Drink more water. It is easy to forget how important water is to living. Skip the sugary drinks and make water your new favorite beverage, you will live guilt free.”

  • Every single time I get sick here in China, I get told to ‘drink more water!’ They also specifically recommend hot water. It’s supposed to be better for your body and is basically treated as a cure all. The other cure is to wear more clothes. I choose to drink more water. You can now see me with a cup of hot water working at my desk or laying in my bed.

That’s all for now. I know this post is a little unlike the ones I have written in the past, but I felt like writing something different this time. Here is the article if you are interested in seeing the rest of the resolutions.