Monday, November 30, 2009

A quick trip home: Allison's Wedding and Julian

7 days + 4 major events + 1 holiday = one amazing but busy week!

I just returned this past weekend from a whirlwind trip back to California for a week to be in a dear friend's wedding, take a trip to the mountains outside San Diego, up to LA to see my girlfriends, and celebrate a beautiful and blessed Thanksgiving up in Modesto with Evan's family.

**Side rant: I say up because Modesto is north and north to me implies up. Evan always says down, which to me implies south. And it can't be south because we drive north. San Diego is south, down, Modesto is north, up. ha. Seriously, opinions anyone?


7 days of jam-packed activity, fighting off a cold, jet lag, and major time difference, but it all was covered by prayers of dear friends. I survived (barely) and after 3 planes, long layovers, and horrible airplane food I am back in Shantou.

My trip began with celebrating Evan and I's 2 year anniversary of dating...

I made him a paper crane mobile from copies of journal entries about him over the past 2 years ---> :)

Then the gorgeous wedding of Nathan and (now!) Allison Van Egmond = yay!

Allison and I have been friends since before we were born.


Our mothers met in an pregnancy aerobic class and we were born 2 1/2 weeks apart.
We have been to every birthday and major life event over the past 24 years so of course, though I currently reside in China, I had to be there and was blessed to be a part of it.

Isn't she beautiful??

Then it was off to a day trip up the mountains outside San Diego to the small town of Julian.

which of course turned into a photo shoot. ha.

The hills and mountains were gorgeous in their fall color!

I have SO learned to the love the desert and it's beauty growing up in San Diego and it's surrounding area.

Julian was quaint and lovely as always...

We, of course, ate Mom's pie (but not as good as my mom's)...

And we, of course, tried on hats.

many hats.

because we're rad like that. :)

My mom is lovely as ever.

And the setting sun as we drove down the mountains back to San Diego was just stunning.

dusk is my absolute favorite time of day!

AND that was just my first 3 days back! whew!

My amazing (but fast!) Thanksgiving up in Modesto with Evan's amazing family photos coming soon!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Chinese Hotpot experience.

My internet has been off lately not allowing me to post - sorry to my few readers... :)


Since "winter" is slowly dawning upon us here in Shantou (we really only have summer and spring with one month of winter), the season of eating hotpot has begun. "Hotpot" is basically a style of eating where you have a table with a burner in the middle where a pot is placed filled with broth. Plates of meat, veggies, and noodles are brought out and the eaters cook and eat as the like by putting the various edibles in the broth and then fish them out with ladles, spoons, and chopsticks. It usually takes several hours to eat leaving room for much laughter, drinking, and of course, eating! I am always stuffed after eating hotpot. It supposedly keeps you warm and helps you sleep - but I think that's due to overeating, not the hotpot. ;) It's a great meal to eat on a chilly evening and in the company of good people.

Last night I went to have hotpot with some employees from Lafayette. We went to a supposedly really good lamb, or as they say, mutton, restaurant. We entered a large, noisy, crowded warehouse type room, typical for many Chinese restaurants, and sat at a large table with, of course, a large burner in the middle. Our broth was brought out (it had a WHOLE tomato in it - ha, usually they take the time to at least cut it) and our plates of meat arrived.

Now I know lamb is usually gray in color, but not this gray. And I have eaten plenty of weird things in China, but this array of meat was one of the most bizarre...and frightening:

- lamb heart
- bones (some identifiable ones)
- tendons
- thick pieces of skin
- lots of lamb fat
- big chunks of veiny stomach
- lamb balls (balls of meat, not testicles)
- one item that resembled either a tail, ear, or toe
- 1 identifiable dish that even they didn't know what it was

You know it's bad if even Chinese people can't identify the food or want to eat it . . .


I watched as my friends slowly started to say they were full, " wo chi bao le" and didn't want to eat anymore. They started out being polite about it (you know, save face), but eventually the walls came down and we all began to laugh about the grossness of our meal. We ended up serving most of the meat into poor Gordon's bowl, the man who had suggested the restaurant in the first place. I think we all unanimously decided that we do NOT want to see lamb for quiet some time!

I am thankful for an open mind...and an open stomach, the ability to laugh, and gag reflexes that stayed quiet.

Ah, China. You never cease to give me unforgettable experiences.

*thumbs up*

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

And they grow up so fast.

This past week has marked my 14th month living in China. crazy!

And in that realization, I have been very aware of just how much my students are growing up - "like weeds" to coin the old expression. In the past year, I have watched their little minds and bodies change so much. They have grown taller, last year's uniforms now sporting their brown ankles, they have cut their hair, their English has improved. I have developed deeper relationships, friendships almost, and I have gained trust as their teacher.

Trust.I stop sometimes in awe of that little word.

Do you ever stop and think about just how many things in your day you are trust to work/happen/go? Like, will the chair hold you when you sit in it? Will your car drive you to your destination? Will the bus/metro/taxi/bike travel safely? Will your computer work and allow you to check this blog? ha. Etc. I realize my students really have no basis for English outside the walls of our little school, so everything I tell them, they take in - correct or incorrect, grammatically sound or not, correct pronunciation or not. I have made my mistakes. ha. Pressures on!

Their little faces I have come to know. I can pick out their voices in the bathroom as they chatter loudly. I know generally how they will do on writing assignments, activities, games, review. Their little faces, expressions, and mannerisms forever imprinted on my mind and heart:

---> the little girl who's whole face lights up in ecstatic contortions as she tries to formulate sentences.

---> the boy who points at himself with a huge, gaping, smiling mouth when I call on him to answer a question, as if to say, "Really, ME?!?!"

---> the girl who tries to so hard to win at EVERYTHING that she breaks into tears when she looses the game or mixes up words, making students laugh.

---> the girl who truly does know it all, and sits quietly, trying to hold herself in, so others have to answer. Or the funny fact that the whole class looks to her for direction and answers - she's 8 years old! sheesh!

---> the boy with the cutest dimples, the one who practically chokes trying to get those tough English words through his lips, the little teacher's pet who is an angel in every class, the ones who come up just to touch me and be close for a few minutes.

I know those faces and I have come to love them so.

And I will miss them when our roads part someday... but they will forever be in my heart.