Thursday, January 26, 2012

Empty Campus and Career Objective

I left my college when it was still full of students with only one week left of finals.  I returned to a campus where the only people living here are the workers, the people who sweep the grounds, the handy man who fixes anything in a flat, the cafeteria workers, the fruit family.  I wonder why they didn't go home for Spring Festival.

Chengdu, a city of millions, feels like a ghost town.  It is pretty incredible how empty this place is; although, Auchuan was packed.  When I went out to buy food I had to go to Auchuan, a French superstore, because everything around my campus was closed.  That place was packed and I had to wait in a long line for 20 minutes to buy a head of cabbage and meatballs.  I wanted to buy a bunch of dark green leafy veggies but they were super expensive!!!  5 RMB per jin when in Gansu they cost like 0.8 RMB per jin.  I haven't really cooked yet in Chengdu, but after all the wonderful home-cooked meals I have had over the past few weeks, I think buying from the neighborhood farmer's market and cooking would be nice.  I bet when school starts I won't be cooking anymore though.

Next semester I will be teaching writing and oral English on two campuses.  What a nutty commuting schedule I will have again!  Bleh!

I have started applying for jobs.  Is it suppose to take a person hours to write a cover letter?  I think I am too detail oriented somehow trying to match my skills with the job description.  Anyways, if you hear of any openings, let me know. 

Here is my career objective:

Utilize my international experience in West Africa and China along with my science and teaching background to work in a multi-cultural environment to support international education and/or development programs through a capacity in administration, program development, evaluation and training

Any constructive criticism?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Flow of Thoughts: At my student's home

1.  Loner 
I struggle!

a conflict between
my desire
for solitude
the known
health benefits
of being social
and having friends

For when I spend
too many hours
in happy isolation
my thoughts
betray me
drowning into
worry and anxiety
when I am
surrounded all day
by people whose
language I only
understand 5% of
my heart is somehow
at peace
even as I sit
here writing
alone in bed
before lights out.

2.  Spring Festival
In a deserted countryside
factory town
where rain keeps
the fish ponds full,
the banana groves green,
and puddles expanding in the streets,
I spend my time in a row
of cold concrete rooms
each with a door opening into the rain,
a row of sheds next to
a cardboard box factory
empty of workers
on holiday.

A business family
follows their youngest son
who before completing high school
ran from Gansu to the
province of opportunity

A 50 year old father
with dreams of giving
his son
a rich future
lives with
the bare necessities of life
devoid of luxury,
lives in their factory.

In Chengdu,
visiting the home
of a newly married 27 year old teacher
in a newly bought flat
filled with
huge flat screen TVs,
Ikea furniture mixed with
lavish fairytale castle extravagance
a lush show of money
economic prosperity,
it is easy to forget that not
everyone lives that way.

Even a factory owner in the
rumored golden land of Guangzhou
owns only
an old beat up used car,
a tiny TV,
lives in one room with his whole family
a cold concrete floor
devoid of privacy
with a queen sized bed for the parents
and bunks for his son and daughter.
This one room opens into a warehouse
filled with stacks of metal racks
burner grates for gas stoves.

These small factories
are dying becoming
replaced by
newer, bigger, hi-tech monsters.

Families visit each other
drinking tea and eating seeds
of all colors
white, green, black, brown.

Mothers prepare at least 3-5 banquets
to feed 10-20 guests at each sitting.
The dishes are meat heavy.
The prosperity of China
is heard with the laughter
mingled with the clacking of Mahjong and chess
pop, pop, pop
attacks of red dynamite
bursting into sporadic explosions.
The prosperity of China
is measured by the
duly noted amount of leftovers
just enough to reveal that the food
was delicious but also too much.
TV is ignored.
Past grievances are put aside for
harmony's sake.
Gifts are given.
Baijiu is drank.
Troubles are forgotten
for at least a few days.
Zhong Shan 1 hour outside of Guangzhou- January 23, 2012

A Flow of Thoughts: The Return to China, Guangzhou

1.  Mad 
Mad I was to have someone ask me
to change from an aisle to a window
so two people could sit together,
but actually
Mad I was to be leaving Paris,
but more truthfully
More Mad I was to be returning to China

2.  Flight
China Southern tried to copy
Air France's menu
but did a terrible job
except for
the wedge of Camembert
that no one wanted to eat
so I could to my heart's content-
3 wedges happier

The PG movies were old news
mostly for teenagers, kids, and romantics

The hum of the plane was painful
right behind the eye.

Miserable bumpy trip of
artificial light
that was happily
over quick
coz no matter
how terrible
a 12 hr plane ride is,
it is a million times
than a bus.

Then China
welcomed me
with nasty toilets
stopped up with wads of TP
and spittle on the floor and seat

What a jarring wake-up
call not to be in Paris anymore

At least customs were efficient
compared to
baggage claim
of flights from
Vietnam, Paris, L.A.
all at turntable 1
jammed pack with
empty luggage trolleys
not even an inch of space
available for a step near
the edge to drag a bag off.
But after 30 minutes
when my pack finally appeared
the crowd had thinned down.
A poor tiny woman got whacked
when the fast spinning rotation
took my bag from me.

Guangzhou felt deserted
in the aftermath
of the migration to
hometowns for
Spring Festival-
the incredibly super fast high tech metro
near empty at 7 am,
the bus too

The campus devoid
of students
except for the few
stragglers of odd women
nonconforming to the
labeled weird
for preferring to celebrate
the biggest Chinese holiday
rather than with family.

3.  Food
In Paris, I tried to go to
a Vietnamese restaurant
but twice
it was closed
maybe for the
New Year Festival.
In Guangzhou
found plenty of
rice noodles
fish sauce
veggie rolls
and even
evening dim sum
set up outside like
Chengdu BBQ
right next door
to my hotel
in the countryside
of the foothill
of Baiyuan Mountain.

4.  A Gansu Student
It is lovely
to meet up with a former student
who graduated into graduate school
to see her evolution from uninformed
to eyes wide open

University professors
pushing the box of
conformist thinking
to forming well-researched opinions
the Community Party
the development of China
the economic state of a developing country
the pros and cons of the residential card

5.  Volunteerism
Chinese students at uni
join volunteer clubs where they
clean up the campus
visit the elderly
help with the aftermath of earthquakes
visit orphanages
donate blood
raise money

The Confucius Institutes that
are being formed
to share Chinese culture and language
is another way Chinese citizens volunteer.

Volunteerism is alive in China,
but for the older generation
where security and salary
are a priority
volunteering is not understood.

January 19-20, 2012


Paris was absolutely wonderful.  There were streets to explore; parks to sit in; shop windows to browse; museums to visit; films to see; and English bookstores to spend money in.  I loved the metro and the bikeable, walkable city.  I even liked the late night 8-9 pm dinners which gave a person more hours in a day to enjoy life.

Paris has tempted me back to the west.  All the things I cringe about that exist in the USA- car culture, fast food, television, the security of the American dream- were forgotten.  Only the lovely things that I miss while living abroad in Africa or China existed while I was on holiday.  Yes, I know the honeymoon phase of a vacation, in no way predicts the reality of the future, but at least I caught a bit of the western spirit making me ready to finally leave China.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Eating in Paris

As a PCV going to the west for home leave is always a treat for the food; although, due to the sparsity of food in Africa home leave from there was much more exciting than from China. Chinese food is just more plentiful in nutrition, veggies, and lovely spices and flavors. Home leave in Paris? My mouth hasn't left food heaven in days and I am never hungry!!! With the heaviness of big chunks of meat and milk products, I probably only need one meal a day, but it seems like three meals a day is pretty important here in Paris even though breakfast is simple and dinner starts at 8 pm or later. I was afraid that I would be starving by that late hour. That was until I realized how filling lunch would be.

One observation I have had whether you are eating at home just with family and invited guests or eating out at a restaurant, there is always a special procedure to the meal. At home in America at least in my family we just put everything on the table and chow down. Here as the meat is finishing its last 10 minutes of oven time, we start with an aperitif of sausage or some meat spread with a knife on bread or radishes or baby tomatoes. Then there could be a salad which could come after the main course. Next there is a meat entree with a vegetable side. Last items are a cheese plate, then dessert, then maybe an after dinner digestif and coffee. There is so much food that after every meal I feel like I will never be able to eat again.

What have I been eating?

Home cooked meals with Mathilde's family
  • Pâtes aux Cèpes (Mushroom pasta)
  • Shrimp and zucchini wok and a Galette des Rois
  • Beef roast with green beans
  • Chicken with morilles mushrooms then tiramisu
  • Lamb and potatoes
  • Pizza made with bread dough bought raw from a bakery
  • Raw scallops covered with lime and olive oil with artichokes

Restaurants/Out and about

  • Falafel in the back streets near Rue de Rosiers and the Metro station Pont Marie
  • Mint tea at la grande mosque
  • Beef steak and fries with garlic mayo at L'Ecurie in the Latin Quarter around the corner from Le Panthéon
  • A bakery cheese and ham sandwich eaten in the Luxembourg Park
  • Cuban tapas, fish, and spinach at Calle 24
  • African peanut sauce, and plantains at L'Equateur
  • Cocktails, scallops, and food on a stick amongst the actors at a TV series premiere, "Les Hommes de l'Ombre"
  • Sushi at Sushi Boubou in the 10th arrondissement

If you are ever in Paris definitely check out L'Ecurie for its lunch plate and the unique ambiance of an old tiny restaurant.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

First Impression of Paris

Paris is fantastique!

I am having an amazing experience- the cheese, the bread, the chunks of meat, the life of drinking mint tea and connecting with friends amongst architecture dating to the 1600's-1900's where mini elevators have been added and bay windows open onto tiny balconies from which the Eiffel Tower can be spotted and quaint narrow Parisian streets with people scurrying from here to there in their dark clothes can be seen down below.  Bakeries are on every corner and people even sit at outdoor cafes in the middle of winter.  The Metro gets you everywhere.  The lines outside of museums are long but move fast.  We visited a free exhibit by the artist Sempe who is known for his Paris scenes and covers for the "New Yorker."  Theaters are super warm where I had to strip down to my last layer to see A Dangerous Method by Cronenberg.  Walks in parks and streets are full of wonderous sights from the river, trees, and statues to the shops, towers, domes, gargoyles and columns,   Supper is served late and dinner parties start at 8 pm and go until midnight.  What is this lifestyle of rich pleasure?  Is it for me?