18 04 2007

I recently cited slurping noodles as a sound I hate, and Abby commented asking me how I handled China with such a dislike. The truth is that particular answer came to mind because I had read this old SST journal the night before. Enjoy.

Eating Noodles

Eating at the Wai Ban noodle shop when it’s busy is a study in patience for me. Especially when I’m tired. Not much grates at my nerves more than hearing people eat. The slurp, slurp that accompanies a Chinese person eating noodles annoys my senses so much, it almost causes physical pain. I have a feeling that it is akin to what most people experience when they hear fingernails on a chalk board, only the sound continues for about 10 minutes. As children in the States we are taught not to slurp our soup or cereal, to close our mouths when we eat and not to talk with our mouths full. In China, none of these things seem particularly taboo. Other less physical annoyances confront me in China. Pouty girls and the way they beat on their boyfriends, or seek solace from them in very public ways. I think mostly this offends my sensibilities as a feminist. Pushing and shoving, blank stares as response to a smile of greeting, spitting; all of these things are in some way breaking with the social code of conduct that is ingrained in me. But, I’m the outsider here; I’m the one who has entered a place with a different social code. One that i don’t know and don’t understand. You can’t teach those kind of things, not really. You can tell someone about large taboos, but there are so many small things that we do or don’t do without realizing it. We could never think of all of them. I wonder how many times I have put my foot somewhere that a Chinese person never would, said something in a way that a Chinese person wouldn’t dare, or any number of things I’ve never even thought about.


Giving credit where credit’s due

15 03 2007

Abby recently posted about our weekend trip down to the south side for their St. paddy’s day parade and included some of the pictures I shot with the camera I might buy off of her. Which reminded me that I still haven’t credited her for not only helping me create my banner, but for taking the pictures in it. Because I have yet to own a digital camera, throughout college Abby was gracious enough to let me steal from her photo library. Thanks a million Abby!

banner pictures from right to left:

Looking down the long staircase that lead to our apartment on Cheng Chau

A statue of the poet Li Bai in his hometown of Jiangyou

The coast of Cheng Chau

I’m flying miles above the earth right now…

25 02 2007

There’s a slight tinge of color on the horizon behind us and to the right. It’s quite beautiful. Orange than yellow and graduating shades of green and blue end in an inky black as the atmosphere fades into space. Below on the dark ground towns web out into the country marked only by the electricity they emit. And I’m sitting up here high above the world thinking.
This weekend away was refreshing. It was a pleasure to reconnect with my girlfriends and see a glimpse into their new worlds. Things were relaxed, long conversations were had, good food was enjoyed, and my longing to be in the Northwest again was fulfilled. Meryl and I ended up at the Market and in a little Chinese restaurant where we ordered a dish off menu that was a favorite during SST. Fan chi chow dan. Basically scrambled eggs with diced tomato, but hard to reproduce. The men’s choir made me smile a lot and reminded me how much I miss live choral music. Not much hotter than a man who can sing. They made me proud of my alma mater. After the concert, several of the guys, and some of the other alumni who are in the Seattle area went out to. Katie, Meryl and I all went out to a Moroccan restaurant on Saturday night and spent almost 2 hours enjoying a sumptuous 5 course meal. Sunday morning was spent at SMC and we sang hymns! Really good ones. I miss hymn singing…
Back to work tomorrow, and the next week is going to be chalk full of studying because I have to take my last 3 syntax tests on Saturday which means between now and then I have to read and understand three-fourths of an entire text book. But right now I’m quite content.
One more thing of note that made me really happy. I was told this weekend by an unexpected source that Mike and I make this individual happy because we seem really good together. Happy thoughts.

Relaxing weekend… ok, I was a little bored sometimes, but I kind of liked it.

15 01 2007

Music: Pno. Con. No. 1: Allegro non troppe e molto maestoso, allegro con spirito from An Evening With Tchaikovsky

A mutual friend of our apartment came up to visit this weekend unexpectedly. It was wonderful to have her around and catch up. Friday night we had fondue and watched part of “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman” a foreign film set in Taiwan. The sound of the language coupled with some familiar scenes and an occasional word I understood made me miss China. China was an amazing experience for me. Amazing in how hard it was, but how simple it was as well. Having less control over your life can sometimes be a refreshing break. And there was just so much to learn! I feel like I’ve scratched the surface of Chinese culture, but what I did experience I found fascinating and exciting. There were so many things about China that were so different then my world here in the States. I kind of miss that. Every day was a learning experience. It was hard to be bored in China. I think that’s what attracts me to living overseas the most. That and the innate desire of an MK to recapture the joy and freedom of her youthful overseas experiences. I know that it won’t be the same, and I’ll be disappointed when it isn’t, but I still want to go. The question remains
when: probably when I’m in my 30s, but who knows
where: I’m thinking Jamaica, and there’s always central and southern Africa, but I think I could enjoy going back to China, or maybe India, or even Europe. The only places that don’t attract me at all are central and south America, Russia, and the rest of Eastern Europe.
what will I do: teach, childcare… I know some missionaries hire people to come take care of their kids.

Saturday I was going to go to the DMV and get stuff done for my car/ get an IL driver’s license, but since we can’t find my SS card, I was going to go to the SS office and get a new one instead and then go next week. Problem. The SS office is only open M-F, 9-4. How can I possibly go in when I work M-F 7:30-5:30? And I can’t send in my stuff because I have to have an official copy of my ids and I don’t have time to get those either. So unless someone else can go in for me, I’m screwed. So that was frustrating, but on a brighter and more relaxed note…

I got the massage that my employers gave me for Christmas. There’s a nice spa downtown Evanston that both Liz’s mom and Rose’s mom go to, and they got me an gift certificate for an hour massage. The spa is small, but they have a really nice atmosphere, and showers with soap, shampoo and conditioner so you can shower off afterward as well as cucumber water and tea in the waiting room. And the massage was great. My masseuse was nice and down to earth. I didn’t feel intimidated by her like I thought I might going to such a nice place. Saturday night we went to Walker Brothers for supper and then saw “Children of Men” Interesting movie. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. It’s worth seeing. Very dark though. And very politically charged. They took a risk and placed it in the very near future. I consider it a little too near. If they had added even just 5 years, then I would have accepted it more readily, but it’s hard to accept that all women are going to me infertile in 2 years. And then I finally got to talk to Mike! He’d been at ACTF, so we hadn’t talked all week. It was fantastic to hear his voice again, and to hear how excited he was about the upcoming mainstage and then his senior recital next year. This summer is going to be hard with him in Guatemala. Sigh.

Then yesterday I got to talk to my friend Abby from Oregon who I haven’t spoken to for a long time. It was so nice to connect with her again, and it sounds like she and her boyfriend might be getting pretty serious which is also exciting. A little weird though because they started dating a month after Mike and I. It’s different though when you’re both out of school and unattached. I’m excited for her.

My self evaluation for SST

5 11 2005

Music: 懂事 by 孫燕姿 (if that shows up as ???? it’s because it’s Chinese)

this was an assignment for SST, and I’ve decided to post it, because it gives some overarching insights into my experience. It’s long, so only read it if you’re really interested. Love Steph

1 Academic
a) Group learning activities:

The group learning activities was one of the areas that I put in a good amount of energy, but could have put more in. On a scale from one to ten I’d give it a 7. I did all the reading, so that was something that I put a fair amount of energy into, and between that and the lectures feel that I learned some good foundational knowledge on which to build my personal interactions. Some of the lectures were difficult to concentrate in, and I should have worked harder on focusing on those, but some I was completely engaged, and most lectures I asked at least one question. During the field trips I tried to spend time learning from the guide, or material presented to us, and also taking time to be by myself or in a small group to really take in what was around us. I also participated in one of the optional fieldtrips. I think that Red China Blues and River Town both stood out as tools that I steeped myself in. The video during mayterm also stands out to me as does the many field trips that weren’t just tourist traps, but a glimpse into China’s past as well as the current Chinese view of themselves. No wonder they are such a proud people!

b) Individual learning activities:

I tried as much as possible to vary my journaling so as to capture SST in a variety of writing mediums and moods. I tried to pinpoint major events and emotions as well as reflect on my learning and general thoughts about China and the world in general. There were weeks were I put the journaling off until the end, and wish I had spent more time on them, but there are other weeks that I gave myself a good amount of time to put myself down on paper. My project started a bit late, but I feel that the project that I will present is not my whole project. My whole project involves the interviews of the artists I did for my first project, the time I’ve spent just watching the painters at the market, the painting class I’ve been involved in, the dance class I’m in, the legends I’ve had told to me and written down, the poems I’ve read and written, and then finally, the songs I’m learning. I think that I’ve tried to delve into the culture and learn about ancient traditions, but also see how those traditions are used and modified today.

c) Chinese Language:

I did not do well in language class. I have trouble concentrating; I have trouble finding the motivation to study. I don’t seek opportunities to use my Chinese (except with the occasional child I see). I’m one of the poorest Chinese speakers in the group. I just don’t get it. That said, last night a bunch of the girls went out with our Chinese dance instructor who doesn’t speak English, and I was so excited to try and communicate with her in my limited Chinese plus lots of gestures. I loved it. I’m also fairly competent in using survival Chinese. I feel that in some ways with my SST experience, it seemed inevitable that one area would fall by the wayside of sorts, and although it seems a bit cocky, and others may not agree, Chinese seemed like the best choice. I hope that in the future I can put more effort into the language, and return to China.

2. Intercultural/Interpersonal:

I see this as my strongest area. I have poured myself into getting to know people. I’m still making new contacts. I meet Tony at English corner on Tuesday and went to lunch with him yesterday. I’m getting to know Tim better from painting class. He’s one of the teacher’s assistants, and he wants me to come to a party he’s throwing on Friday. During the Halloween party I made myself available for, and sought out interactions with the Chinese students that came, not just the ones I already knew. I’m still hanging out with my roommates, and I feel that I’ve really started to make a true friend of Eunice.
One of the experiences that really stands out to me is going home with Eunice. I had the chance to see her home life on a daily basis, have fun hanging out with her family and spend a significant amount of time with her. Another is my time with my roommates. We had long conversations about relationships, cultural differences and just life in general. The wedding I attended was also a formative event for cultural learning.
The most difficult thing has been the time that it takes to get to know anyone here. It’s not just the language, which does play a large role in the difficulty level, but also the cultural differences, or perceived differences. I know how to get to know someone in the states, I’m just skimming the surface of knowledge as to how one goes about getting to know another person in China. It’s hard, but worth the effort.
The area that I failed in as far as this category goes is my host family. I’m not completely to blame for this, but I could have put more effort into contacting them again, and making it clear that I did want to get to know them, and be involved in their family.

3. English Teaching

I’ve improved so much as a teacher from the first day of teaching. I started out with good ideas, but I didn’t know how to adapt those to my student’s needs, or learning style. While I’m still not teaching the way their Chinese teachers probably do, I’ve found a way to take a few steps their direction while still trying to give the students as many speech tools as possible. I still have a long way to go, and I’ve had lessons that bombed because the students just didn’t care about what I was talking about, but the last few lessons have been wonderful tools for me to learn about China, for them to talk about topics they care about, and for them to see a bit how a native speaker would go about forming arguments, questions, etc. I found that flexibility is key and that there are many teaching tools that are common place in the US, but not really usable or difficult to use in China, like “raise your hand if….”

4. Personal Areas

Obviously, SST has been strongly shaped by my break up with Jesse. I don’t even know where to begin to talk about how that’s affected it yet. In every way really. I am proud of how I’ve done in SST. I’m proud that I’ve learned as much as I have. I found that I am a strong woman. Through contact with other religions and religious practices, I’ve found that I am passionate about my faith. Through learning about another culture, I see the world even more as a global community with global concerns and needs and characteristics. This is something that I want to explore more deeply throughout my life. I found that going overseas is really important to me. This is an important discovery because it was something that I almost gave up.

Living at night

18 07 2005

Today my mom asked me why I live my life at night and then sleep during the day. It’s something I’ve struggled with since middle school. I’m a night owl, no question there, but I do tend to enjoy life better when I’m going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. I wonder why that is. This morning I got up around 10 and went down to mow my sister’s lawn. It takes about 50 minutes to get there, and tragically my mom had failed to tell me that she didn’t have a key and that I was supposed to bring the one Lenora had given me. So we turned around and came back. Then I felt pretty deflated and read some and then took a nap. In the afternoon I cleaned my bathroom and worked a bit on the downstairs that still has some cleaning up to do. After a bit Jesse came over and set up the wireless internet access on my parents computer that I’m now using sitting in bed and chatting with Nathan and Derek on IM…… I love the internet. Went back to Jesse’s and just kind of relaxed together. He’s working long hard hours, and doesn’t have a whole lot of energy at the end of the day, so we’ve been doing that alot. And now back here for some interneting.
Abby’s recent blog about China made me think about my own feelings and how I too am concerned about not dealing with it well. I’m so amazingly excited! But I’m also terrified. I mean what if I can’t talk to my cooking family at all. I feel like the only Chinese I have a grasp on is hello and goodbye, and even that I don’t remember the tones for. I did so poorly in Chinese class…. 😦 But I’m trying to let the excitement be the dominate emotion. I’ll miss Jesse…..
I’ve been thinking some for the past little while about how I’m changing my name when I get married. I won’t be Stephanie H******** anymore…. I’ll be Stephanie S*************. I’ll be giving up a piece of my identity. I mean I’ve been Stephanie H******** all my life. There’s not much more basic about our identity than our names. No matter what I’ve been, done, where I’ve lived, etc. I’ve always been Stephanie H********. In less than a year I won’t be. I’ll have to remember to tell people the right name… learn a new signature. I’ve always thought that I’d change my name. I really didn’t mind the tradition, but now that it comes down to it, it seems like a much bigger deal to be changing my name. I wish there was a more equal way of doing it, but even the middle name thing doesn’t really work for us, because Jesse’s middle name is Jesse and John, his first name, is a family tradition that I wouldn’t want him to give up. Hyphenation doesn’t really work…. can you imagine me having to sign “Stephanie H********-S*************” no way! so what can Jesse do to some how tip the balance a little more equally. I mean….. I don’t know, I just feel that it would be nice if there was something that he was doing to token his changing of identity as we unite as well. Something saying “I’m hers just as much as she’s mine”. Tis a puzzlement (name that tune). In other news, our wedding bands are done and will be on their way to the the US by monday!!!! (with Thushan) I’m excited to see them. Thushan’s father is a jeweler and his company is making them for us. Well night all. Pleasant dreams.

Watching the green

3 11 2004

Music: Ada plays from Cold Mountain

It can be very inspiring to watch my plants grow. Ever so slowly, but I see progress and discover new shoots everyday 🙂 And they’re not dying which is amazing with the fact that I really have no green thumb what so ever, I think it might even be slightly black 😉 Life is…… right now in this moment life is good, I have wonderful friends, a warm room, an incredible man who loves me, more food than what’s good for me, and direct access to the ultimate power of the universe. You know that last on is really the most amazing, but the one I think I take the most for granted, or at least capitalize on the least. Humm… something to work on. I felt really beautiful today 🙂 That’s always a nice thing. Oh! and I voted for the first time. Exciting. Please, Kerry win. Please, please, please, please. Sigh, Bush for another 4 years might be more than I can handle. At least I’m going to be in China next year. Wonder what they think of him over there. Probably hate him like the rest of the world. Sigh.