Happiness is…The Iowa State Fair

My sister’s birthday was August 6th, so to celebrate I bought her tickets to see Train and Matt Nathanson at the Iowa State Fair. It was a much needed break from Cedar Rapids for both of us…Nicole leaves for college in T-3 days and has been packing up her things and I’ve been spending too much time at home on the computer applying for jobs (a few interviews, but no luck yet).

We arrived at the fair around 2 pm and headed straight for all the food stands. Nicole had never been before so she wanted to check out all the fried foods. We decided on what we would eat for dinner and then headed off to see all of the animals and the butter cow. We spent the afternoon petting sheep, goats, llamas, cows, and horses. We stopped at the butter cow for two seconds, just long enough to say we had seen it haha. Our next stop was the rides. They were expensive!!! It was $20 for a sheet of 20 tickets and each ride was 4-6 tickets. We were able to go on the ferris wheel and the Tilt-A-Whirl. Then we played some games for an hour or so before grabbing dinner. We split an order of the deep-fried cheese curds…holy cow amazing!! They were like mozzarella sticks, but 10x better! Nicole also had a slushie from the DIY slushie stand and a deep-fried snickers bar. I had a pineapple whipped ice cream treat and a corn dog. Yummy!

After eating, we headed to the Grandstand for the concert. Matt Nathanson was the opening act. To be honest, I had no idea who he was. Turns out, he sings “Come On Get Higher”, one of my favorite songs from the late 90s! After Matt’s performance was Train. They were outstanding!! I had seen them two years ago when they were at the fair with Maroon 5 and thought they were stellar, but they really knocked it out the park this time. They sang a few of their memorable songs from the 90s, like “Meet Virginia” and “Calling All Angels” along with their newer songs. During their performance of “Bruises” they asked for an audience member to sing the duet with them!! It was awesome! After the concert there was a surprise fireworks display :)

We were both exhausted after the concert, so we went back to the hotel and crashed. Despite being worn out, it was an amazing weekend and I had a lot of fun hanging out with Nicole before she heads off to Clarke University on Thursday.

The view from our seats

23 Before 23: Run a 5K

This past weekend, I got to head back to my beloved Des Moines to visit my college friends. We have all been trying to get healthy this year, so to have some fun together, we decided to sign up for the Color Run. It was an absolute blast! We were given a white t-shirt, headband, and color packet when we registered. We also decided to get matching running shorts :) Essentially, the Color Run is a 5K with a twist. As you run, you get sprayed with various colors of paint (a mixture of cornstarch and food coloring). You get messy real fast haha

After the race, there was a concert. This was when our color packets came in handy. At one point during the concert, there was a countdown, and we all threw our packets at the same time. It was insane…there was a cloud of color lingering for a good 3-4 minutes afterwards.

Pre-race…still clean

We found some friends!

The start of some messy fun!

Ready, set, GO!

Looking good Anna :)

Best Friend

Post-race

JUMP

Air Five

Post-race concert

The lingering paint cloud…

Besides the race, we spent the weekend lounging by the pool, eating at all our favorite restaurants (Jethro’s, Zombie Burger, The Waveland Cafe, and Gateway Market), and catching up. It was amazing.

The Great Wall

My time in Beijing was short and it didn’t help that the weather was crappy. It was raining almost the entire time I was there, so I limited myself on what I saw. Of course I had to see the Great Wall and my dad works at Wal-Mart and kept saying that I just HAD to visit the world’s largest one.

The Great Wall was amazing, even in the foggy weather. I am still in shock that I was there! We couldn’t walk the entire thing, but they left a section of it open for tourists. We had to take a cable car to the top and then we could walk our way back down. At the bottom of the wall were all kinds of restaurants and shops with souvenirs. I decided to eat at one of the restaurants that served Beijing Duck, a China specialty that I had yet to try. OMG…so delicious!! Within the first few bites it became my favorite dish from China.

The Great Wall

Even with the bad weather…SOO crowded!

23 Before 23: Picture at the Great Wall
Check!!

Still can’t believe I got to experience this!

Soo foggy

Beijing Duck
How to eat: Take a tortilla and spread some sauce on it with your chopsticks. Add a few pieces of duck and some julienned cucumbers, roll up, and enjoy!

Later that evening, I made my way to downtown Beijing and the world’s largest Wal-Mart. In many ways it was similar to the Wal-Marts of America, but in other ways it was a lot different. There was floor after floor of new things to look at. One floor was dedicated to seafood…you could pick out a live fish and they would give it to you in a plastic bag with a bit of water to take home. It was crazy cool to see!

High rise Wal-Mart

Great Value, China-style

I was very lucky to be a mystery rider for LimoLink on my way the airport to head back to the USA. I had a car sent for me with an interpreter. Since the ride was booked for free, it was my job to take notes about the service and quality of the drive and report that information back to LimoLink. I was grateful for the ride, and happy to help them out :)

Last Few Days in Chongqing

That’s right folks! I am officially back in the United States!! It feels great to be back :) Now I’m job hunting, unpacking, and catching up with friends and family. I’ve decided to keep up the blog and post about my adventures in corporate America (eventually), fitness, and any trips I decide to make. You’ll be hearing lots more from me!

My last few days in Chongqing were definitely interesting. As soon as I started telling people I was leaving, it seemed like I was busy ALL the time. Here’s what I did during my last week at SISU.

Monday:

CoCo invited me to dinner in Shapingba. We went to chuan chaun, which is very similar to hotpot, but you get to pick what you want to eat. Another difference is that its slightly less spicy and the food comes on a stick, so you can pick it out easier (rather than having to fish your food out of the pot with chopsticks).

Chuan chuan

Tuesday:

Claire’s brother-in-law was in town, so she invited me to dinner to meet him. We had a bunch of traditional Chinese dishes, including Chongqing baked fish. Her bro-in-law is a calligrapher, so he showed me a few of his techniques. After dinner, we went to CiQiKou, an alleyway filled with traditional shops. Claire was super nice and bought me a traditional Chinese dress! (called a Qi Pao in Mandarin)

Chongqing baked river fish

Wednesday:

I went shopping with Claire and CoCo. I was also invited to participate in some of my students’ final project. They had to create a news segment, including a news reading and an interview. They decided to interview me about my time in China. I had my hair and makeup done…I felt so glamorous!

Thursday:

My department had their end of the year farewell dinner. We went to Nanping and ate dinner on a boat overlooking the Yangtze river. It was stunning!! I was also surprised by my department with the most beautiful handbag as a thank you for all the work I did this year.

Our dinner boat

A few of the many, many dishes we had to eat

Chongqing at night

Friday:

I went to dinner with some of the other foreign teachers before we all departed. We had another traditional Chinese food, Beijing Duck. It was absolutely delicious!! It is my new favorite food from China :)

Saturday:

My co-teacher/interpreter Ping invited me to her home for dinner. There was a festival this week called Dragon Boat Days, so we had some traditional food, including rice pudding. it was interesting haha I got to meet her husband and son (his English name is Toby), and she was kind enough to take me to a spa. We had the steam sweat rejuvenation treatment…it was 45 minutes in a steam room. We had to drink this special tea, and we couldn’t shower for 24 hours. The goal was to open up all the pores to let the toxins out. It was a little uncomfortable, but very nice.

Toby and I goofing around

Traditional Chinese food prepared by Ping’s mother-in-law

Sunday:

I spent the day packing up my apartment and preparing for my trip to Beijing.

Stereotypes

For one of my last lessons (can you believe it?!?) I brought up the topic of stereotypes. First, I gave them typical stereotypes that American people have about Asian/Chinese people. I explained that the only way we learn about China is through the media…movies, the internet, and the news. We don’t necessarily believe all the stereotypes are true; we just don’t have all the information to make proper judgements.

I then split the class into groups and had them come up with a list of stereotypes they have about America/American people. I have to say, I wasn’t surprised by some of their answers, but I was completely shocked by others.

Here’s what they came up with:

  • Americans don’t care about their families very much (especially the elderly)
  • The only traditional American food is apple pie. We generally steal our food from other countries
  • All American men are “se lang” (sex wolves)
  • The crime rate is so high in the US that our lives are in constant danger
  • All “Western” countries are basically the same
  • All Americans eat McDonald’s and are obese
  • Every American owns a gun
  • Americans are very liberal with their sexuality. You can find people having sex everywhere: restaurants, in the restrooms…even in the street!!
  • Americans are individualistic…they only care about themselves
  • American college students don’t study and party all the time

Reasons Why Teaching English is Hard…

I never realized how truly difficult the English language can be to understand until I started teaching it. Here are some of the struggles I’ve had during my year in China.

 

1. It is hard to explain why two words are spelled the same, but can have different meanings depending on the context (and different pronunciations for that matter).

When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

After a number of injections my jaw got number.

The farm was used to produce produce.

The bandage was wound around the wound.

 

2. There are many paradoxes.

There is no egg in eggplant; no ham in hamburger.

Neither apple nor pine are in pineapple.

English muffins weren’t invented in England.

Boxing rings are square.

 

3. Our “system” for making singular words plural makes no sense sometimes.

One goose, two geese….one moose, two meese??

 

4. There are discrepancies over the way words are pronounced between native English speakers.

Linguistic Conflicts in America

 

5.  THIS

Weekend Trips

I really need to be better about keeping this blog updated!! Oops!

A few weekends ago (May 19th), some of my News Writing students invited me to go with them to SuiNing to visit some famous temples. I happily agreed, since I really enjoy learning about Chinese history. We left campus at 5:45 am to catch the train (2 hours) and spent the morning at the Native Place of Guanyin, a famous bodhisattva. There are many legends about her in China, but the one I found most interesting was how she received her thousand-armed form.

(NOTE: I’ve mentioned this before, but since the inside of the temples are considered sacred, no one is allowed to take photos. So, unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the Guanyin statues)

When she was young, she vowed to protect all sentient beings. If she could not do so, her body would shatter into a thousand pieces. One day, she noticed that despite all her best efforts, there were still countless beings flowing into the realms of great suffering. Her vow became true, and she was split into many pieces. Her friend, Amitabha Buddha, used his powers to reassemble her body. When he did so, he gave her the gift of one thousand arms with one thousand hands, each with an eye of wisdom in its palm. He did this so Guanyin’s power to protect sentient beings would increase a thousand-fold. In this form, Guanyin is meant to inspire us to be of service to all living beings in our own way. She is also a visual metaphor of an energy structure that can be experienced through Taoist yoga and inner alchemy. My students said that when people practice yoga in this way, especially in the mornings, some people may feel like they are actually growing wings (or a thousand arms). Fascinating!

Entrance to the Native Place of Guanyin

Making our way up the mountain
(Seems like there are mountains EVERYWHERE in China!)

Statue of the Three Sisters

We were each given a red ribbon and asked to write a wish on it, then hang it on one of the trees. The thought is that Guanyin would eventually see to it that our wishes were answered. I wished for “an end to suffering.”

Top of the mountain!

View from the top of the Pagoda

Last weekend, I went with John and Stefan to University City to see some of the other college campuses in Chongqing. We met up with one of Stefan’s high school friends who now attends Chongqing University and she showed us around. I am insanely jealous of their campus!! SISU’s campus is pretty, but relatively small, since the mountain takes up a lot of space. Chongqing University is more spread out and the area is flat. There’s even a lake in the middle of campus! My favorite part of the day was seeing the art department and all of the senior work on display.

Chongqing University

Student art work

I thought this student’s work was outstanding! He/she created a video game. There was a character analysis (in Chinese of course), a video monitor with bits of the game available to play…there were even action figures and memorabilia!

Memorabilia for the video game

The Token Minority

This week’s topic in my Ad Research class was political correctness. I explained the term and gave several examples. I brought up the idea of the “token minority” and how this type of character is added to a TV show or movie so that they can seem more multicultural. By adding this character, they can also bring up discussions about racial issues, gender issues and homophobia without shame. My students thought this was interesting, and we had a great discussion about it. At one point, Claire asked me if I ever felt like a token minority. Right away I answered no, but I started really thinking about it….and yea, there are certain situations where I am the token minority in China.

A perfect example:

Last week I got a call from the Foreign Affairs Office telling me that I would be conducting interviews. They told me where and when to meet and that I would be paid for my time, but no other information was given. I had no idea what the interviews were for, who I would be interviewing, or how long the process would take. Two ladies from the Chongqing Vocational Business College met me at the SISU gate and escorted me to University City (another district of Chongqing). Once there, I met with the Director of Foreign Affairs for the college who explained what my task for the day would be. There were 12 candidates (teachers) up for an overseas fellowship (either to America or Australia) paid for by the Chinese government. Each candidate had to come up with a research topic relating to bilingual education and present that topic to the review board in the form of a paper. At this point, the board had already received the papers and needed to interview each candidate to test their English proficiency. That’s where I come in.

There were four interviewers total: me and three Chinese professors. The other interviewers had the chance to read the papers (one, because they had more preparation time than I did, and two, because the papers were written in Chinese) but they told me that it did not matter that I had NO CLUE what they were talking about. My only task was to judge how well they spoke English. In this moment, I really did feel like the token minority. My only purpose was to sit there and look pretty. It did not matter that I was not familiar with their research topics or that I did not have a connection to the review board or the fellowship committee. Nope. They needed a foreigner, and I fit that bill, so I was hired.

Being the token minority is a very strange thing. I never thought I would be considered a minority, but in China, I am. I now understand how African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics feel when they are looked down upon or treated differently just because of their race. I am definitely more aware of it, and will take this lesson with me back to America.

Chengdu: Day Three

Our third day in Chengdu was devoted to mountain climbing. We began at 8 am and reached the top at 2 pm. It was grueling at times, but I had a lot of fun! We were told to pack light since we would be carrying our luggage with us up the mountain. It made the climb harder, but there was no other way to do it. By the time we reached the top, I was a sweaty mess and I did not appreciate that everyone was so fascinated by John and I. Our pictures were constantly being taken. At one point, there was a little girl (maybe 10 feet away from me) who was following me with her camera as I walked by. I put my hand out to block her from getting a good shot. She seemed shocked and quickly apologized and her parents started laughing. It wasn’t funny to me, but I’m glad they got a good laugh haha After a few minutes to catch our breath, we took the cable cars back down and then immediately had to head back to the train station. Overall, it was a great trip!

Foot of Qingcheng Mountain

Crossing the river

The boat we took

This part of the climb was a bit scary…the railings weren’t very high or sturdy

View from the halfway point

We made it!

Sweaty, but proud!

The group
Me, John, Stefan, and Lynn
(we got the flowers from some very nice Chinese girls)

Cable cars

Heading back down the mountain