Monday, September 26, 2005

autumn and break-ups

at least 3 of my close friends have had relationships end in the past month. What is up with that September, that is so not cool.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

teaching and tutoring (a mass email home)

Dear Folks, It feels weird to realize how quickly I am approaching the halfway mark of SST. Our estimated departure for Hong Kong is Nov. 20, which is less than 2 months away. But there still remains so much to experience here in Chengdu. This weekend our group went to see the Dujiangyuan Irrigation system and climbed the Daoist mountain, Qing Ching. The day was also very misty and a light rain was falling for most of the day, so by the end of the day we were all quite happy to return to our comfortable and dry dorm rooms. Although I was also pleased to actually be chilled, maybe this marks a turn in the humidity here to the promised crisp lovely weather of autumn. This coming week is our last week before National Day (the anniversary of the declaration of the People's Republic of China and the following week long national holiday. Most of us will be attempting to get ourselves invited to various homes and towns of our Chinese students and friends. I have a possible invite that I hope works out and another invitation from my host family, so it should be an interesting week. Speaking of my host family I just returned from a delicious meal at their apartment, my host mother made fried jiaozi (dumplings), huanggua (cucumbers), nurou (pork), and my favorite huangdou (soybeans). Home cooking is something that I rarely get to experience here, because all our meals are eaten in restaurants, which at first was a wonderful novelty, but i am realizing how much I miss cooking and eating in private. I think the fact that we are still somewhat novelties in restaurants also impacts the experience. Prior to dinner, my host father took me to a very nice tea house and we chatted about racism, the Chinese experience during World War II, the treatment of minority cultures within China, the debate about Tibet, educational system, advising by professors at the undergraduate level. And no that conversation did not take place in Chinese, only in my dreams of fluency would I be able to carry on that conversation. But I am very lucky because my host father is obviously almost fluent in English. This past week also brought about my first encounter with teaching English. I met and taught my class for 45 minutes. It went well, but I was surprised at various parts of the lesson. My class consists of junior level tourism majors, and luckily enough I have only 29 students (some of my fellow SSTers have 40-50). Although I felt that my class respected me, I was not prepared to have to bring up discipline issues such as listening when their classmates where introducing themselves. However I think this was also due to the redundancy of this activity for them, seeing as they already knew each other and hadn't understood that I was doing this as a means of giving them practice and giving myself a chance to evaluate their English level. It was also difficult for me to find a balance between being the teacher and wanting to interact with them as peers, because after all they are only a year or two younger than myself. But it was nice that they seemed very surprised when I told them how old I was. Along with teaching, this week in our Chinese class we began learning a few characters, I now know how to write "I am American" in characters and can recognize a few basic signs. But considering it is estimated that one needs to know approximately 3000 characters to be able to read the newspaper, I have a long way to go :) This week we also finalized our tutoring sessions in various Chinese activities, I selected Tia Qi (incorrect spelling), a form of deep breathing and slow movements which has some similarities to yoga, and traditional Chinese painting. So my weeks look like they are quickly filling up. In other news I found out this past week that a friend from my graduating class at Bethany High School, passed away from a overdose. Although I was not particularly close to him, several of my fellow SSTers knew him well and it has been a more difficult week. Your prayers both for his friends and family is appreciated along with our SST group. I heard from various sources that many of you attended the MCC relief sale this weekend, and I hope you all had great times and ate many apple fritters. My best to all of you and keep the emails coming! Love, Abby

Friday, September 23, 2005

recieved chinese hair cut and massage

although not simultaneously I first heard of the 15 kuai hour long massages from others in the group and knew I had to check it out. Great time, a full body massage including back cracking and an ear massage. Three weirdest parts included butt massage, upper inner thigh massage and knee cap massage, but over all very professional and extremely relaxing. Oh and it cost me a little less than 2 dollars hair cut report, you can officially see my neck, so I think it must be short. It included a fabulous head and scalp massage, a washing, a cutting, and a styling for 6 kuai, or around 75 cents. So my head now looks fabulously asian (except for that whole blonde and curly part). Oh and it only took 2 hours!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I'll take the good with the bad

Today was a pretty exciting day, lots of pandas. Giant ones, red ones, baby ones, and cute little cub ones. Tomorrow is Mid-Autumn Day, of which there are many different legends and explanations for, but the main celebration technique seems to involve lots of mooncakes and hanging out with family and friends. In other news several people in our group have been hearing some bad news from home recently so keep our group in your thoughts. on another note, check out my now famous high school classmate, Sarah Thompson.

Monday, September 12, 2005

random thought for the day

Does loving to shop in a foreign country mean that I am buying into the American idea of consumerism and helping to encourage the image of Western culture as materialistic? But then I mean who can resist a ratio of 8 yuan to the dollar. In other news, I would love emails regarding the following topics: updates on the news (esp the Supreme Court nominations) updates on Hurricane Katrina and the relief efforts news and gossip from the Goshen Campus send any such info to abby period last name at gmail period com one last parting shot, today my breakfast consisted of 5 little baozi, which are these steamed buns stuffed with a sausage like filling, oh and it cost 25 cents!

very busy, very china

because I have been depending more on mass emails, I haven't been posting here as much, but for those of you who care, here is a copy of what I most recently sent out. Maybe if I have time I will post more later. Dear Family and Friends, Although I was going to wait until Sunday to write you all, I decided to take advantage of a free offer of internet and email you today. Several times in the past few days I have found myself amazed that it has been less than 3 weeks since I arrived in China. Life is beginning to reach some level of normalcy with a nice balance of classes, free time, exploring, lectures and chances to interact with Chinese students. Yesterday was a big day for our group because we finally met our cooking/host families. While we will continue to live in the Waiban dormitories these families will serve as connections to Chinese cultures and also offer some of us the chance to try our hand at some Chinese cooking. Feeling rather nervous, I finally met my family at 8pm, a few hours after the rest of the families had arrived, due to my host parents having a dinner they needed to attend. They are a great couple, the husband speaks English and actually just visited the States last spring, through an exchange with the university of Georgia. They picked me up in their rather nice little car and drove the short distance to their apartment. They live on campus because he is the dean of Teacher Preparation, or in other terms he teaches undergraduates and graduates how to be teachers. Unfortunately his wife doesn't speak any English, but this will definitely be a good motivation for me to learn my Chinese. They also have a son almost exactly my age, he is a English major here at Sichuan Normal University. It was nice to be able to talk with someone my own age and in English! Another random connection is that he was actually in a English taught by the previous group of Goshen SSTers, specifically Rachel Weber and Ann Albrecht (both of which have graduated by now). Anyways it was quite a lovely evening and they gave me a present of some pomegranates (which are quite common here) and some lovely Jasmine tea). I look forward to going over to their house tomorrow to cook lunch with them. Other highlights of the week include late night chats with fellow SSTers, unexpected fireworks going off at the south gate, providing us with a spectacular view from our roof, bright sunny days in which to dry our laundry, a random meeting with a Chinese girl on the street, that lead to coffee and good conversations, games of volleyball, lots of tea, successfully ordering several Chinese dishes and getting what we asked for (although we also managed to get three separate orders of fried rice, which provided a bit too much for us), and much more. Although time is moving slowly, each day feels very full and eventful, I continue to fight a bit of a head cold and recently learned that Chengdu does indeed possess a fair amount of mosquitoes of which several have left their mark on my arms. The weather is quite nice and it is interesting how quickly one gets used to the pollution and on clear levels it seems even less. I think most of our group will welcome the arrival of fall, which will hopefully bring cooler days and maybe even less humidity. Yesterday we had a lecture from Professor Huang, a retired Chinese professor of English, who was instrumental in the origins of the China SST program. He read a poem about Goshen College based on his visit there and his appreciation for its campus and oddly enough it made me a little homesick for the campus and all its lovely Maple Trees. Oh another highlight was joining a group of middle aged Chinese women who meet nightly to do aerobics which take the form of Chinese folk dances. Although many were quite hard to pick up on, it was lots of fun and I am sure they got a kick out of a bunch of foreign girls joining them. Well this email grows long and my time grows short, so much love to all of you and remember to let me know how you are doing from time to time! Abby

Thursday, September 01, 2005

China post

Well it looks like I can at least post to my blog, but just not view it. So this may be one of the few posts I make this semester. Where to start, well I am here at Chengdu, at the Sichuan Normal University. Feeling good, except for a nagging sore throat that I have had for a few days. Life here in China is great, tiring, and busy. The other day our group was reflecting on the ways we are being stretched here and our delights, so I will share one of both. First of all something that stretches me is the air, pollution is at higher levels here than I am used to in the states (although Chengdu seems much better than both Beijing and Xi'an). And along with that smoking is everywhere, through into that the cacophony of smells ranging from cooking, to sewer and everything in between gives one a brief idea of the streets of China. Then through these streets pop up stands bearing everything from pomograntes, to fish, turtles, mao watches and silk scarves. The streets at night in Beijing were definitly one of my delights. Another delight has been the unexpected greeness of the Sichuan campus, grass, and trees are everywhere, which help ones eyes adjust after the harshness of the cites. As someone in our group said, this past week has been crazy, seeing something spectacular every single day. One definitly spectacular site was the Terracotta warriers in Xi'an, brilliant preservations of an emperor's desire to rule even into death. The figuries are lifesize and each is different from the next in facial expression. Yet despite the spectacular nature of these figures, I think my favorite site was the Summer Palace in Beijing, full of small ponds, flower gardens and paths wondering around the side of the lake. We even got a small ferry ride accross the lake. For more pictures go to