Monday, April 30, 2012

Relaxing before the attack of future tasks

I am so lucky and am definitely feeling the great relief of having a 4 day weekend because of the official 3-day May holiday. 

Since I had to miss my Chinese lesson for COS conference, my tutor found some unexpected free time on Friday and I was able to make-up a 2 hour Chinese lesson on dating.  I picked up my perfect newly made black Mary Janes except that they are leather and need to be broken in.

Saturday, I spent the whole morning lesson planning/grading, but then relaxed in the afternoon by hand-writing 5 short notes to friends and finished a book.

Sunday, I was actually able to finish two knitted hats.  It has been so long since I have been able to knit.  I've got 1.5 months left and feel a need to use up my stash of yarn.

I found the most gorgeous African Wax that I want to purchase to have a sundress made.  I've been trying to find the best design for the dress and have been researching what I want- empire waist, long waist with an A-line skirt, or fitted.  I love v-necks so that is definitely in.  Send me photos of cool sundresses that could be tailor made.

My newly tailor made dress is pretty, but I fear it makes me look short and pregnant with a natural waist line belt/line that seems to accentuate the area where I carry my weight, my tummy.  Also, a v-neck instead of the round neck would have made it more hip.  The dress feels a bit dated, like something I would wear to church when I was a teenager.

Every day I went for a 45 minute run and even though I wanted to go on a 50 km bike ride on Sunday, I got a flat 10 minutes into the ride.  I then got lazy as I walked home to fix it.

Lesson Planning
I am teaching some experimental, new (for me) lesson plans using differential instruction to teach listening skills and vocabulary for the national CET4 exam creating various project areas for the students to choose from.

COS Conference
As always COS conference is a tough time, emotionally strange, the excitement of memories and of feeling the sense of accomplishment of completing one's Peace Corps service, mixed with feelings of anxiety and apprehension about the future including saying goodbye.  Plus there is the realization of an added list of paperwork and responsibilities that must be finished before one's COS date.

During an optional session reflecting on who we were, who we have become and how this PC experience will affect our futures, I realized that I can't remember who I was 6 years ago living in Seattle, an American about to go to an isolated village in Africa.  I feel like I have definitely evolved -values, thinking, reactions to situations, tolerance for things- but compared to other PCVs who seemed to easily discuss examples illustrating the shift of frustration to acceptance and understanding, I feel like my life has somehow normalized.  It is hard for me to see the before and after.  Life is just the way it is.

For example, PCVs talked about the challenges of sending packages by China Post, the senseless paperwork at our schools, the value of giving up independence and self-reliance to ask for help, accepting and listening with an openness to different ideas, the comfortableness with a different level of privacy, how multi-tasking isn't actually all that effective, learning how not to be in control, etc...

I on the other hand had nothing to say.  Crazy!  It kind of makes me afraid. 

Going off to Africa was a great unknown.  If I ever return to America, it feels like it will be an even bigger challenge than Africa because I "know" America so it doesn't seem as exciting.  In reality though,  I don't really know America anymore and will have to go through many frustrating moments before my American lifestyle feels normal.  If I can shift the belief that I know America into I don't, maybe I'll be open to the adventure of discovering the unknown American me, thus making it easier to adapt back to America?

Future Tasks
I don't even want to write about it.

It is time to get back to relaxing before the attack of future tasks.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Leather Shoemaker

I have spent a month looking for shoes.  I even gave my students some money so that they could buy a pair of shoes off of a famous Chinese online shopping site, but they thought the shoes were too ugly and the shop wasn't reliable enough.  They did not buy the shoes and gave me the money back.

Last night I went and had a Chinese meal near Sichuan University's west gate.  Lo and behold, I found a leather shoe making shop.  I am getting a pair of shoes made using a male sole that is wide and a feminine Mary Jane top. 

There are two reasons why I have been having trouble finding shoes:
1.  Shops rarely carry size 8.  China size 38 which is the longest that most shops carry is just a bit too small for me.
2.  The shoes for females are really narrow and I feel like I am walking on a balance beam.

I am happy that I found the shoemaker and can mix and match what I want.

PS.  To the commenter about cost of living in China- I can't reply to comments because I don't have a VPN and my blog is actually blocked in China.  As a Peace Corps Volunteer I live comfortably on $240/month, but I don't pay for rent.  I heard rent in Guangdong is like $400 which can be shared between two people.  In Yunnan I am not sure, but I am going to guess rent is a lot cheaper.  Actually I will be trying to find cheaper rent in Guangdong because $200 is way too much for me.  If you want to learn more please provide me with your email in the comments.  Comments are private.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Last days in China: 10 Positives

I've been feeling exhausted, but I will write about 10 positive things instead of the heavy workload, long list of things to do, mid-term exams, essays from my writing course, Chinese lessons, workshops, inability to stop eating and 24 hr construction outside my bedroom window.

1.  A quarter slice of a whole pineapple is only $0.25 and it is served on a stick!
2.  I've been running and/or biking every day; although, I am finding it a bit strange that my feelings of stress haven't felt lighter because of the daily exercise.
3.  The new resource room has just been furnished, so office hours will be moving to the new room next week.
4.  I bought new clothes and LOVE them.
5.  I am picking up a new blue and white flower tailor made dress tomorrow.
6.  My COS date is June 14th with cash in lieu.  My start date with TFC is June 18th.
7.  The dean of my English department approved and is cool with the above timeline.
8.  I have a pile of books to read and just finished three from the series, The Mortal Instruments.
9.  No cavities found by the dentist.
10.  I was able to commute once by bike to my countryside campus this week. 

Monday, April 09, 2012

1000 Shoes

I spent hours wandering the first floors of malls in the downtown shopping area of Chunxi Lu of Chengdu.  HOURS!!!  I saw a thousand glittering shoes- flats covered in diamonds, bright colors, bows, and flowers; hundreds of pumps all with some type of heel; and sandals with a high top clunky wrap for the ankle.  Looking for an extremely comfortable shoe that could endure 6 hours of teaching a day or hiking through cities during vacation I tried on 5 pairs of plain black shoes and realized 3 things:

1.  Cheap shoes ($30) are of extreme low quality.
2.  Chinese shoes are not only short but also narrow.  Rarely could I find a size 39 or 40 and if I did, my foot flattened by years of playing sports and by my weight did not feel supported on the narrow soles.
3.  Chinese women want to look tall.  It was extremely hard to find a shoe that didn't have some type of heel.

So in conclusion, I hate shoe shopping in China.  I spent HOURS looking and came up with nada!  I am not sure how I am going to deal with the dilemma of needing a good pair of sturdy summer shoes.  After 6 years, I still have my Chaco's, but they aren't very professional.

I did find an amazing Chinese sleeveless traditional, form fitting gray linen shirt with tie-dyed purple flowers and awesome black, baggy pants with embroidered hot pink flowers.  They were expensive, over $20 each, so I didn't buy them.  I am waiting to see if I really really want them.  I will probably buy them.  Stay tuned for pictures.

A terrible day of shopping did end well though with all you can eat sashimi with friends.

Friday, April 06, 2012

2 sizes bigger

Living in Chengdu with all of its temptations, going to Paris, going through a 4 stage interview process, and teaching full time wile doing the PCVL job are things that have not contributed to my waistline in a positive way.  I tend to eat my stress or if there are tempting delights like in Paris, then my self-control if I ever had any goes out the window.

Last semester I didn't worry so much.  I was commuting by bike at least 80 km/week.

Instead of wearing my ethnic skirts and colorful tailor made dresses and blouses, I decided to buy one casual blue/gray professional outfit.  I really hate shopping in China because everything is too small; therefore, I went to a store with a western brand that actually had larger sizes.  Not having a scale in my house, I really have a hard time knowing my weight fluctuations.  In Africa it was even easier not to care about my body image since there were no mirrors except for the small round one that would sit on the desk.  It was in that Swedish store that I learned the truth.  I had gone from US size 10-12 to size 14-16.  Bleh.  I had the data.  I haven't bought a piece of American sized clothing in 6 years and voila, I had solid proof that my waistline had grown.

I love food.  I don't diet.

Instead, I have started exercising more.  Last week I went on a 4 hr bike ride that turned into 6.5 hours due to getting lost, and then yesterday I went on a 45 minute run.  I got up early to go to the track, but all of the gates were locked even though there were a bunch of people exercising on the football field.  I ran from here to there and finally found the person sized hole torn in the metal gate.  Ah China...  it tries to have strict rules.  No one is allowed on the sports field.  Look at the locked gates.  Alas, its citizens find a way around it.