Thursday, September 30, 2010

National Day Holiday

I am on vacation.
Check back in a week for pictures.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Teaching News

I am teaching an English Short Story class to juniors and after three weeks of teaching, I have realized that my content level is too high.  I get really excited about teaching content classes because I have this great desire to get the students thinking about diverse ideas and hear their opinions.  I want to have an intellectual exchange of ideas.  I want to stop talking about the weather, food, dreams, daily activities, etc...  But I forget that English is their second language, and it is hard to express more complicated ideas in a second language.  

Today I taught a three paragraph essay written by a Chinese scholar about the different way Chinese people and American people feel and think about home.  It had a lot of implied information rather than directly stated information.  The students said, "They did not understand the article at all.  It was too hard."  When the level of a class is too high, it becomes frustrating for both the students and the teacher.  I need to pick easier material.  

In my other junior Short Story class, I gave them a choice between two teaching methods.  Because the class is so big, the first method I decided to implement focused on writing, reading and thinking.  The second method I could implement would be focused on reading and oral English activities, if the students' promised to ONLY speak English.  If they really want the second method I guess I can endure the noise that 70 students talking out loud would create.  

I told the class,  "We will take a vote.  If you agree say aye in a normal voice.  Do not shout."  

I stood in front of them and said, "If you want teaching method one please say aye now."  A loud thunderous aye resulted.  

I then asked, "If you want teaching method two please say aye now."  A loud thunderous aye resulted.

I asked, "How many of you voted twice?  You have to choose one and only say aye once for the one you want."   I took the vote again and had the same result, two loud thunderous ayes.  

Finally, we did it by a show of hands.  About 40 students wanted the first teaching method and only 10 wanted the second.  Why did the voice vote not work?  (Check out this blog posting from a former China PCV about choice in the classroom.) In my second class the voice vote worked fine.

Tonight in the Tree House, one of the discussion questions was If you could change one thing about yourself, what would you change?

The girls answered, "I want less oily hair.  I want a slimmer figure.  I want a prettier face.  I want to be more outgoing.  I don't want to change anything.  I like myself the way I am."

The boys answered, "I want to change my major.  I want to be successful so my parents can work less.  I want to have more of my parent's good qualities."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chinese Burrito

After a morning of lesson planning, for brunch I had black bean, peanut, and rice porridge along with this greasy, spicy yumminess

I got a care package full of books and sat and read for a couple of hours.  I started reading Asian Americans by Joann Faung Jean Lee.  It is a book of profiles and interviews.  Reading about other Asian American experiences made me realize that the reason I have so many identity questions isn't a result of being adopted but is because I am Asian (Chinese) in America.  I am not the only one who asks these identity and culture questions about how and where do I belong, but many other Asian Americans wonder about it too.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Corn Cake

How does one translate names of Chinese dishes into English?  You don't?  This is a corn cake topped with sprinkles.  I personally did not like it very much, too oily and flaky.

Today was a quiet Saturday.

I spent the morning lesson planning, washing two loads of laundry, mopping the floor with the laundry rinse water, packing for a trip to Gannan, knitting a glove, and eating chicken noodle soup.  

Then my sitemate, a visiting friend of hers, and I rode a bus to the South lake full of dead fish and ate at a restaurant that claims to cook countryside food.

I had a Chinese lesson, ate ice cream and then felt the sole of my shoe flop off.  I have worn these shoes for over six years and China is the perfect place for them to fall apart.  I walked to the back gate, sat down, and a guy glued everything back together and put on new heels all for $1.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

Here is a chicken noodle soup that I prepared yesterday and got to enjoy today.  Those are tofu pillows floating on top.  Bird soup reminds me of Thanksgiving leftovers and the Christmas in Guinea when visitors traveled to my village.  My friend killed a couple of chickens that were given to us by the chief.  As I was scrubbing chicken pieces with soap and water, grabbing a chicken head scared me half to death just like the time I put a ladle into a Chinese banquet soup suppressing a scream when I pulled out a whole dead turtle- head, shell, feet, and all.    

It was a perfect day for soup, cold and rainy.  Now that I have become a sweater knitter, I appreciate cold weather.  Today I pulled on a warm sweater, dug out a cowl, and stuck my wool sock covered feet into a sleeping bag.  As a knitting addict, I am not sure hot climates are for me anymore.  

Tonight was the second night I got to go to a live concert of Polish and Western music.  Four voice harmony is so beautiful.  Showy contrasting dynamics played on a piano are wonderful.  Acapella blues make us all smile and tap our feet.  The intense, room-filling weeping of the erhu touches the soul.

I realized that the bigger the audience, the louder the music has to be.  Pop and rock music play for crowds of thousands at full blast.  Classical music is meant for smaller audiences.  It feels like a music for the privileged few who has the money to purchase the limited expensive seats.  In China, the audiences are HUGE and audience noise is loud.  To drown out the cell phones, the kids, the commentary, and the conversations, the performance volume is turned up.  This is why I need ear plugs whenever I go to a Chinese concert, whether it be a dance performance, opera, a play, singing or traditional instruments.  Tonight's choir of twenty foreign guests was hard to hear.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mutton Stew

Today I woke up late around 9 am to a runny nose and thought it would be a perfect day to make a chicken noodle soup with Chinese characteristics- a chicken's head, feet, tofu, and bean sprouts.  As the stock was simmering, I got a message that my waiban (foreign affairs officer) had invited us to lunch.  We spent 3 hours eating a mutton stew.  It reminded me of one of my last meals in Africa, a mutton head stew which I tried to carefully maneuver as not to pull out the eye socket with an eyeball still attached.  I didn't mind the brains, but an eyeball?  It just seemed so squishy and round making my mouth shudder at the thought of popping one with my teeth.  In today's stew though there were no brains and no eyeballs.  It had large chunks of bones from the leg.  Too big to eat with chopsticks, we were given plastic gloves to keep our hands clean and plastic straws to suck out the marrow.

Tonight there is a concert being performed by a visiting choir from Poland.  I wonder what kind of music they will sing.  The Chinese choirs that I have listened to often perform traditional and politically patriotic songs.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mid-Autumn Festival

This is a mooncake.  Today is Mid-Autumn Festival and people gather to eat mooncakes and look at the moon while remembering family and friends.

Tonight we had a party in the garden under the moonlight.  We sang Chinese and English songs.  We played games like tag except you can't be tagged if you can say a three character Chinese phrase before they tag you.  We also played a game where the mother hen has to protect the baby chicken from the eagle where the eagle has to try to tag one person while the other person tries to keep the eagle away.  We ate mooncakes and watched the moon against the moving clouds.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I live in a part of China where the staple is noodles instead of rice.  When I first arrived in this town, I loved noodles, ate them all the time, but now I am tired of noodles because there is nothing nutritional in them except for whatever nutrients come from white flour.  Very little meat or vegetables are added to the noodles here.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Eric Weiner, author of The Geography of Bliss, made a sweeping generalization about the nature of happiness, "Envy is toxic."

I first found this to be true after site visits in Africa.  Envy sabotaged Peace Corps trainees' happiness.  Before seeing our future homes that we would be living in for the next two years, we were naive optimists excited about every little thing, every little difference, writing letters home about all the amazing differences and how we were surviving them, the heat and massive thunderstorms drumming on aluminum roofs, the squat toilets, the markets, the people, the lack of electricity and water, hand washing our clothes, taking bucket baths, eating wild porcupine.  We had no idea what to expect about our future homes.  

When asked during our site placement interviews, what kind of place do you want to live in, our lack of experience and knowledge about African villages and Peace Corps homes in those villages, made our answers meaningless.  I remember saying, "I want a place with as few mosquitoes as possible."  What else could I ask for?  a place with electricity, running water, Internet, a host family,  vegetables and fruit, a close by Peace Corps neighbor, a hut with a grass roof, a house, a city apartment, an indoor bathroom?

After site visits, trainees returned to the training site excited and ready to describe their new homes in great detail.  This is when a shift happened in the overall mood of the group.  A few people started feeling envious.... What?  You have a tiled bathroom, 20 couches, and 10 empty rooms in a mansion?  Really?  You have electricity?  I didn't even know that was a possibility.  What?  You have a western toilet?  Serious?  Woah!!  You have an internet bar in your city?  Hmm... I've got bats and poop covering the floors of my house.  My walls are dirty and horrible.  My village only has onions.  I have no latrine.  I have to walk a kilometer down a hill to fetch water to carry back up the hill to my house.  

The envious few turned the initial optimism of the group into complaint sessions and no longer was there an overall positive mood anymore.  Instead things became more stressful and people started thinking about going back home to the USA.  For a few, happiness was replaced by envy through comparing what they had to what others had.  

How do we prevent envy from entering our lives?  For some reason, I just don't care what others have, find that what I do have is great and often wish I had even less; however, envy doesn't always enter the picture though materialism.  There are other ways envy can rear its ugly head like when you start comparing your personality and looks to others, or when you are single and start comparing yourself to so many happy couples.  For me, I stop envy by trying my best to stop comparing with a judgement of better or worse.  I look around me and just say "Wow.  They're different.  They have different things, have different personalities and talents, and different lives.  Cool.  Neato."

Community Leads to Happiness

While reading Eric Weiner's The Geography of Bliss, I identified with a lot of his sweeping generalizations about happiness, lessons that I too have learned while living abroad in Africa and China.  These past four years have been good to me on the happiness scale.

I have learned that even though I believe that I am happiest as an isolated loner, the reality is I've always been surrounded by community and that is a source of my happiness.  Through his travels Weiner realized that the nature of happiness comes from family and friends.  I learned this recently while traveling in Seattle then to Colorado.  During the first few days I barely spoke to anyone, biking everywhere, isolating myself in lonerville, and felt like I didn't belong to America anymore, felt that my travels abroad had somehow changed me so much that America was no longer comfortable or familiar.  Then slowly I started meeting up with old friends.  Then I went to Colorado where I was completely surrounded by friends and family without a moment to be alone.   By the end of the month of home leave, I was once again feeling like an American who belongs, not some expat strange alien who was visiting a weird planet for a month.

Both in Africa and China, I have spent large amounts of time alone; however, I am never completely alone.  Community always seems to find me.  In Africa, there were the tea guys, the fruit and rice ladies, the students, the four wives of a compound where I lived, the tree where people gathered, the accused witch who lived next door, the kids who would play games, sing, and color on my front porch.  In China, there are the back gate street food vendors, the students and teachers, the knitting ladies, the tea guy at the Baijia supermarket, the grandparents with babies and children, the cafeteria workers.  I often think I am an introverted science geek, but actually reality shows that I know how to be likable allowing a community to surround me.  My genuine curiosity about people with different life experiences and from other cultures is probably one of the reasons why I am always surrounded by community and thus happy.

There are times when I think I want to join a Buddhist monastery, isolate myself even further from the outside world, find peace within meditation, silent retreats, and simple living.  Or go to Antarctica or find a job on a fishing boat and learn about the isolation of being surrounded by ice or water.  The truth of the matter is that even with this belief that I thrive best alone, I never escape people or community.  Why would I want to anyways?  Life has taught me that I am happiest surrounded by community.  

Where does this desire for isolation come from?  Aren't we all seeking happiness?  I have found it so why do I seek a life in the opposite direction?

Chinese Muffin

Photoblog theme for a few days:  Food eaten in China

I am not exactly sure where this muffin is baked.  I rarely see ovens.  It is not a soft, doughy type of bread like Southern yeast rolls, nor is it muffin like.  It is kind of crispy and dry somehow.  Reminds me of crackers or maybe a type of flat bread.  It crumbles quite easily.  There will be no cutting this bread into slices.

Today has been hmm...  just one of those days.  Teaching was tough.  Sometimes lesson plans just don't work.  Chinese corner was tough.  Other than shopping and ordering food I haven't had to really communicate in Chinese for a while, so my head was slow with the language.  This week though I have scheduled Chinese tutor interviews.  It is time to get back to improving my language skills.  After 6 hours of teaching and Chinese corner, I crashed and took a nap.  I wonder if I am getting sick.  Then the Tree House was full of students, a good time, something nice for such a tough day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


With an 8 am successful class on a Sunday morning, my body reacts funny to the day of rest being a work day.  Tree House was hopping busy tonight, first meeting of writing club and tons of new students just wanting to visit.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Grandmother's Jacket

Here it is the jacket I bought yesterday.  Do I look like a Chinese grandmother?  I like the jacket because of the buttons and the high collar.  I decided to buy this jacket rather than the male jackets because it would hopefully be easy to give away to a student.  Plus it was the cheapest warm jacket I could find at 120 RMB ($17).

I had a conversation with my favorite yarn shop's boss lady and asked her if she could teach me how to crochet the sturdy house slippers that everyone wears here.  You have to first buy a plastic thick rubber like sole to attach the yarn to.  Unfortunately she doesn't know how to crochet, and said I should go next door where the lady will teach me for free.  Hmm... The next door lady isn't as nice to me as this lady though, but if I want to learn a new craft I don't have to like my teacher right?  Right...  Maybe we will grow to like each other through the experience.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mini Olympics

We were given free tickets to tonight's rehearsal performance of the opening ceremony of the Gansu Province Sports Meet.  The ceremony was modeled after an Olympics opening ceremony except there weren't many athletes in attendance.  I hope they arrive tomorrow otherwise it seems like an incredible waste of money and time to build a new stadium and to spend the summer rehearsing.  The mass number of performers, probably over 5,000 people, were all students from my city.

Wednesday I spent the day trying on jackets.  Women's coats, the XXXL size, are too small in the shoulders and arms.  I would not be able to wear many layers underneath except maybe one long sleeve shirt.  Men's coats fit well and look great; however, after the dean of my department commenting twice on my boy's haircut and how it makes me look like a boy, I am not sure it would be wise to even look more male by wearing a man's coat.  So then I tried on grandmother's coats, and they fit fine with plenty of room for lots of layers.  I think I will buy a cheap grandmother's coat at 130 RMB compared to the more expensive men's coats 160-300 RMB.    

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pest Problem

Last night I learned that there is a local holiday for the Gansu wide sports meet on Thursday and Friday, so no class.  This means that I don't have to lesson plan for my English Songs class; therefore, I was able to stay up late and finish the first half of the rat.  The next step is to create organs for my little friend.

I've been having trouble sleeping, feeling exhausted by 8 pm, falling asleep then waking up at midnight, 3 am, 4 am, then finally getting out of bed at 5:30 am.  So I decided to try to stay up as late as possible last night.  I lasted till 1 am.  Looking out my kitchen window I saw that I wasn't the only one awake.  Several women were getting their hair done at the barber shop.

The English department has been left out of the Gansu sports meet because we have too many girls.  We have been the only teachers and students in the classrooms this week; however, the leaders of the school recently decided to ask the English students to do a flag ceremony tomorrow morning at 6 am.  Lucky us.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Do you know anyone in China who has an electric clothes dryer?  I haven't met anyone yet. 


1.  Sewing a knitted dead rat together is like being a surgeon and an artist.  Often whenever I finish an oil pastel coloring, I instantly think ugh...  But later when I come back to the picture, it looks better.  It is the same with the rat.  Everything has been assembled except for one leg and the inside organs.  At first I thought it looked lopsided, weird, and strange, but now after putting it aside for a while, it looks a lot better.  The pink tail definitely makes it look more realistic.

2.  In my sophomore listening class we are studying current events and placing news item tidbits on a world map.  When I first handed out the unlabeled maps, I was surprised that several students tried to find Pakistan on their maps with the orientation upside down from the way I am used to looking at maps.

3.  There is a new delicious Muslim restaurant in the back gate.  They serve a Chinese dish poured over freshly made noodles.

4.  All of the departments except for the English department have canceled classes for a week because of a Gansu wide sports meeting that is being held in a newly built stadium.  According to some students, the other departments have more boys which is why they are participating in the opening ceremony, but because the English department has a student majority of women, we aren't participating and therefore have to attend class.

Monday, September 13, 2010


During the last weeks of being in China, my previous sitemate was packing, throwing stuff away, and filling boxes to donate; however, in my city, we did not know of any donation drop off sites where we could give away re-usable nice clothes.  There were no Goodwills or used clothing stores we could sell our clothes to.  So what did my sitemate do?  She filled a cardboard box full of her good clothes that she didn't want to take back to the states and left it on the first floor in front of the trash chute hoping someone would come by and recycle her good clothes.  She left for the supermarket.  When she returned, all the clothes had been dumped on the ground and the cardboard box had disappeared.  In China, people do not wear used clothing.

In America, I was so happy to be eating refried beans for breakfast covered with cheese and was super happy when my friend made a refried bean yummy soup.  In China, there are dried beans, but it takes like four hours to cook them.  Often I can't wait and am eating crunchy beans.  I don't often cook beans because it is a waste of gas when I can just get my protein from meat dishes.  In Africa I would often use up the gas to cook beans.  I needed a variety in my diet, but in China this is not necessary.  

My new favorite drink is blended beans.  The cafeteria has bowls of black eyed peas and white beans.  The drink maker takes a spoonful of beans, dumps it in a blender, and adds some hot soy milk then whirls away making a delicious hot bean drink.  It is almost as good as refried beans; although, you can't really eat refried beans through a straw.  Beans through a straw, Yum.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Warm Sweater

Before going to the USA in July, I started the Avast by Jesse Loesberg, and I finished it yesterday.  I think it looks terrific and is super warm.  The only reason I knitted a sweater that has a zipper is because in China I can pay a tailor 5 RMB ($0.75) to sew it.  The sweater is a bit tight, but I think it will stretch out eventually, like most clothes do in China.  Plus I will stretch it out a bit when I wet block it.

My next knitting project is a dissected lab rat with all the innards.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cost of Living

What is the cost of living in China?  What is a middle class salary?  When do people start becoming rich?  What is poor in China?  These are confusing questions that my old sitemate and I often wondered about.

Currently Peace Corps volunteers get free housing, free medical care, and a monthly living allowance of about 1500 RMB ($220).  We are single university teachers who do not have a lot of expenses compared to our counterparts with families, mortgages, and children.  At our university, teachers receive a salary of about 3000 RMB/month ($440) plus bonuses.

My students said that the tuition and cost of dorm rooms at our university has jumped from 3500 RMB ($550) to 6000 RMB ($880).  This rate is one of the lower tuition rates at our university since English majors will become English teachers.  If a student receives a non-teaching degree, tuition becomes more expensive.  Students are required to live in the dorms sharing a room with 6-8 people and pay the dorm fees even if they rent a place off campus.  One person meals cost anywhere from 1-6 RMB ($0.14-$1) which according to the students have increased in price by 1 RMB.  Showers cost 6-8 RMB ($1-$1.25).  Internet bars cost 2 RMB/hr ($0.25). 

If a family has a car, does it mean they are rich or middle class?  If a family eats at KFC or at the chicken fast food places in the city, does it mean they are rich or middle class?  Meals for one person at chicken fast food places cost 15-30 RMB ($2.25-$4.40).  

Are street sweepers, street vendors, and people who work in the supermarkets and restaurants, poor? From students I have heard for these jobs people make about 300-500 RMB ($45-$75) per month.

Questions that I haven't been able to get a clear answer about are
How much does it cost to buy an apartment?  How much is rent?  Many of the juniors and seniors who want to study and have 24 hour electricity will spend about 100 RMB renting one room that they will share between two people.

It is really confusing.  What do you think?  Are Peace Corps volunteers in the lower middle class or upper middle class or in the rich bracket of China's salary class?  In Africa, it was clear that Peace Corps volunteers were in the upper middle class approaching rich.  In China, I am not so sure.

Estimated RMB exchange rate used in calculations:  6.8 RMB/USD

Look at Me It Yells

After living in China for two years, I assume that there is nothing new that I can see.  How wrong I am.  While searching for a pitch instrument, at a massage place, I saw the masseuse standing on the table with his toes in the small of the back of another man rubbing in circles.  Then I ran into this moving bulletin board.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fair Wage?

My student's father was in the hospital over the summer, and she is looking for a part time job to help her family out and to cover school and living expenses.  She went to the local KFC fast food chicken joint and asked for a job.  Because of her school schedule she was unable to accept the 4.9 RMB/hr ($0.75/hr) part time job.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Is this how your Christmas tree looks?

I found a $3 pitch instrument, so I think I am ready for my first two hour English songs class.  The music store also had a small keyboard that you use air to blow into to make a note come out.  It costs about 180 RMB ($26).  Not sure if it is worth the money.

Bikes and Hair

Yesterday, I walked two hours looking for a guitar store that I thought I knew where the location was.  Apparently I had forgotten where I had seen the guitar store and could not buy the pitch instrument I need for my English Songs class.  After the long walk, I sat with the welcoming English majors, who have set up a booth to meet the new incoming Freshmen.  There are also cell phone booths where for 400 RMB ($60), you can get cell minutes, a cell phone, and a bike!

The other day the dean of the English department commented, "You have a boy's haircut!"
I replied, "Yeah it's cool."

I wonder what the tone was behind the comment or if there was any implied meaning.  Was he just making an innocent observation?  Was he making a critical observation?  Was he making a judgment that I shouldn't have a boy's haircut but should be more feminine?  Was he implying that I represent the school and should look more professional?

Many people have been commenting on my hairstyle.  My teacher friends say "Umm.. wow your hairstyle is cool."  The students say, "You're handsome."  Others say, "You look like a pop star."

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Disabled Gmail Account

Greetings all... for some reason or another my gmail account has been disabled which means I can't receive emails at that account anymore.  Please email me at evolvingthinker at 


Monday, September 06, 2010

Picture of Chengdu

All is well in China. 
Classes went well even though I really dislike teaching large classes with 60-70 students.  In such big classes, I feel disconnected from the students and feel like I have to become a two hour lecturer, rather than a facilitator.  Any suggestions on how to become more connected and how to implement student centered activities with such a packed class?  For one of my classes, I am requiring them to come to the Tree House once during the semester to do an interview and have me check their homework.  This is one way I hope to connect with the students on more of a one on one basis.
Tree House opened and one student came to visit checking out books and asking questions about how to study and improve her English.  She signed up for Chinese Corner and Knitting/Cooking Club where she wants to knit a sweater.  She also wants to do an interview to see if she could become my Chinese tutor.  The interview consists of writing up a 30 minute lesson plan and teaching it to me.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


These meat filled treats are delicious especially when the bottoms are fried brown.  Often when people first see this Chinese white bread they think it's raw dough.  It isn't.  It is just steamed bread.
Nothing much happened today.  Been working on my zipper sweater.  It will be finished before winter hits; although, today it was rainy and chilly.  Maybe winter is already here?  I feel like it is going to hit really really soon.  Tomorrow is my first day of class.  At today's Tree House lunch meeting, I learned that the Freshmen haven't even arrived yet.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Me the Great Doofus

Photoblog:  Early morning in Xian, the day I returned from the USA and now the photoblog's focus has turned back to China
The other day I made the greatest fool of myself.
In West Africa, one thing foreign visitors absolutely hate are little gangs of children jumping up and down, chanting "White person, white person, white person" in whatever local language they know.  In China in the smaller cities like mine, foreign visitors hate being stared at and randomly being shouted at by adults, "HALLO!  OKAY!!  BYE BYE!!!"
Guess what I did the other day.
I've been looking for the six new foreigners who are teaching at a local high school to invite them to our library and to Chinese corner.  Lo and behold after dinner while walking home, a tall white male walks by and what do I do?
I shout in the most excited, never seen a foreigner before voice, "HALLO!"
In his shock and annoyance of being shouted at again, he shouts back, "HALLO!"
I tried to tune down my energy and asked, "Are you a number 2 middle school teacher?  I've been looking for you guys everywhere.  I am an English teacher at the college."
"No.  I work for the oil companies."
"Where are you from?"
"Oh.  Je parle Francais."
"Oh you speak French and English."
"Well it was nice meeting you.  Enjoy your evening."
Doh!  I felt so Chinese shouting at him and even more Chinese because I looked Chinese and looked like a local who shouts HALLO at every passing foreigner who walks by.  Let's just stamp the word Doofus across my forehead.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Gasworks Park Seattle

Traveling to Seattle and to Colorado, I was happily surrounded by an outdoorsy, healthy population.  It made me kind of self-conscious.  People were tanned riding bikes for exercise, training and participating in sprint triathlons, hiking, running, swimming, backpacking, and rock climbing.  It made me realize how much I miss being around people who enjoy sweating by being outdoors. 
My friend sent me some stats:
"300 days of sun," the phrase goes here (Colorado). Tons of biking, hiking, running, and more. This year Colorado again came in as the number one fittest / least obese state. (Washington is 22th and Alabama is tied for 49th for comparison).  
By the way, still having trouble with my Internet so I can't publish your comments, but I can still read them.  Thanks for all of the input.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Chinese Short Stories

I have been doing teacher homework where I have been reading and reading trying to find stories for my English short story class.  Last semester was pretty much a disaster where attendance in one class in the middle of the semester reached a low time self-esteem hitting low of zero students.  Ninety percent of the students out of three classes just stopped coming for the rest of the semester. 
What was I doing wrong? 
I have the class again but this time with juniors instead of seniors, and I will not be discouraged.  I will try to be all that I can be, a prepared teacher who has done her homework and planned a well thought out lesson.
This semester I have decided to compare Chinese stories with western stories that have similar themes. 
As I do my homework reading story after story from ancient China, with morals, happy endings and lessons on how to live life, how to treat your parents and the leaders of the country, I am having a hard time identifying with the characters, and often just want to stop reading and gouge my eyes out.  It makes me wonder, are the students also having a hard time connecting with the human behaviors in the western stories that reflect the raw reality and pain of life of people in a far away land? 
I think Lynn Holmes in her introduction to An Anthology of Chinese Short Short Stories selected and translated by Harry J. Huang, explains the difference between western stories and Chinese stories.  She writes, "...the purpose if there is one (behind Chinese storytelling): the expectation that each story will have a moral, a point, a positive value in our own lives or community."  In the multicultural society, she explains, "If fiction is designed to give us imaginative access to other selves, and since to be human is necessarily to suffer and to face the unpleasant, what we gain from our reading is an extra concentrated dose of simulated life."  There is quite a big difference between our cultures' literature.
I am hoping through this semester's class, I will be able to bridge the gap between the expectations of stories with morals and happy endings with stories that do not always show the rosy side of life, but the raw reality of it.  I hope that the students will be able to teach me about their literature and help me appreciate it more, and in turn I will attempt to help them appreciate and understand western short stories.
Wish me luck and stay tuned...  Will I drive all of my students away?  Will they keep coming to class?  What will I learn this semester?

Crested Butte

Crested Butte was wow... magnificent.  I had a blast camping out in the Aspen forests of a thirteen mile hike seeing wild flowers, a dead headless bear, sheep and their herders, and deer.<br> 
My computer and Internet have been having problems as well as my gut.  My stomach problems remind of the first time I ate Chinese food in Conakry, Guinea after eating rice and fish head sauce for a month.  I think my stomach needs a small amount of time to adjust to the amount of oil, MSG, and salt that is used.<br>  
Here is an attempt at posting a blog through email.<br>
PS.  If you have a spare minute, let me know if this post with the picture works and if the layout looks all right or if it looks funny.