Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My last weeks in China

I know I keep saying that I’m done blogging because of finals and packing, but this week has been weird. If you’ve kept up with me this long I figured you might be interested.

Make a Rabbit Disappear

This week started with a rabbit. I don’t remember if I’ve told you about Hambowbow yet so let me summarize the situation. For my friend Judith’s birthday, some people came together and bought her a long haired rabbit. He looks extraordinarily Asian, complete with squinting eyes and a fu man chu coming to a point beneath his chin. He was named Hambowbow (the Chinese word for hamburger).
The real story started though when he was brought back to the dorm. Judith’s Korean roommate didn’t want a rabbit living with her. So instead, Hambowbow was sent to live with me for a few weeks. The Korean roommate would be going home then so the ball of fur could be returned to his rightful owner. Until then, the two of us, along with my Russian roommate, would have to get along.
This week though, we prepared for Hambowbow’s departure. The Korean was leaving in six hours and I was packing up the cage. The rabbit was playing outside my window, where a shared stone deck sat on the third floor of our dormitory. I jumped through the window and started the process of trying to get the rabbit back inside.
He didn’t want to. Hambowbow ran in circles around the deck, jumping for every lap he completed. Finally, in a last hop of freedom, the rabbit jumped in a small hole along floor of third floor.

And he was gone.
I just stood there for a moment looking at the place the rabbit had disappeared. I had barely noticed this hole because it was so small. But he was completely gone. I stuck my hand down the gap but it went down too far for me to reach.
Within the next hour we stuck a rope with a banana on it down the hole. Hambowbow loved bananas. But he didn’t even nibble on it. We also realized that the hole went straight down about thirty feet. Into a wall. Apparently, the deck had been built on later that the rest of the dorm so the Chinese left this hollow pillar in the wall. It was about two square feet wide and it literally went straight down to the basement.
With the help of some friends, we went to the bottom floor and deduced which wall the rabbit was trapped behind. I was pretty positive he was dead. I felt awful. But we wanted to make sure. I climbed up into the ceiling tiles of the basement and found a small crack (thank goodness for shady Chinese construction) in the wall. With the use of a headlamp (never leave for China without one) I could see the rope that had the banana on it. It was about ten feet away from me. And we knew that the rabbit would beneath it.

So we stole an American’s cane and an Italian’s sword. I attached another friend’s webcam to the cane along with my headlamp. We had created a probe that could be slid through the crack and look down to see if the rabbit was ok. Even in the midst of probably killing a friend’s pet, I still recognized that this was pretty cool. It was like something off of a spy movie.

After a few tries I was finally able to get a good look inside the hole. The rabbit was there, completely unharmed, and sniffing the banana that hung from a string. I flipped the probe up and saw the great distance between the hole’s bottom and top. I still have no idea how Hambowbow survived.
But his temporary escape from death didn’t help us for more than a moment. There was still the issue of the rabbit being stuck down a deep whole without a way out. And I had to use the length of a cane and a sword attached together just to see him. We decided to wait a night and talk to the people in the Chinese office in the morning. I threw some food pellets down the hole that night. I thought the rabbit might get hungry.
The next day we told the Chinese that there was a rabbit in their walls. They took it surprisingly well. I showed them the video I had taken with the web cam to show that the rabbit was very much alive. And I showed them exactly which wall the rabbit was trapped inside. For a solid two hours the Chinese people considered helping. They brought in janitors and construction workers, looked at the wall, scratched their heads, mumbled something, and walked away. Eventually, someone told us that they could do nothing. To put a hole in the wall would cost about 1000 RMB ($150). They didn’t want to waste that kind of money on a rabbit. And they assured me that the smell wouldn’t be too bad when the animal started to rot.

With that happy thought in mind, I asked them if I could try and save him. I knew that the crack I had put the cane and sword down could be widened. They told me that I could make as much damage as I wanted as long as it couldn’t be seen.
So once again, I climbed up in the tiles. This time with a hammer and chisel. And I started hacking away at the wall. Since I’ve never been in this situation in America, I can’t say that this would never happen. But I cannot imagine a university at home letting a foreign exchange student hack away at a pillar in their walls. I guess I shouldn’t be complaining.
As I started, I found a large pipe that held my weight so I could sit. It was useful as I spent the next nine hours widening a crack in a cement wall. I couldn’t see anyone but from what I heard we had a whole crowd of students beneath me, moving the stones and cement that I threw down. Italians, Americans, Russians, Dutch, Germans, Koreans, and the occasional Chinese person were all helping. About the sixth hour I was exhausted, and an energetic Dutch girl named Charlotte climbed up into the ceiling with a hammer in her hand and started joining me. I would have preferred my roommate who could probably have just punched the wall down, but we needed small, spry people to climb up into the tight tiles.
Charlotte was like a breath of fresh air. Literally, she made the gap big enough so that we had more air going through it. Within an hour, we had a five foot hole made that I could slide down into. It put me into this abyss section that went another ten feet to my left to the column that the bunny was in. We had knocked up so much dust that I could barely breathe. Charlotte continued to make the whole larger behind me in order to fix this. I pushed my feet on one wall while my back pushed on another and slowly moved toward the rabbit’s cell. Once again, even in the midst of a bad situation, this felt pretty cool.
Eventually, I got to the rabbit. With my headlamp back on my head I was able to see the grey ball of fluff down a hollow column to my left. I was too big to get down there so I called to Charlotte to get something that we could get him in. Judith took a sand bucket and filled it with smashed bananas. Some people attached it to my rope (never leave for China without rope) and passed it into me. I unsuccessfully tried to bribe the rabbit into the bucket. Instead of going in, Hambowbow just nibbled on the edges. After thirty minutes of eating the bucket the rabbit walked out of sight.
I couldn’t find him. There was a stone that had come loose at the base of the hole and the rabbit had walked through into another crack. And that crack led right beneath me. I gave a yelp at my sudden good fortune and slowly slid down the mini canyon to pick him up.
But the rabbit ran from me. Me, the guy who was trying to save his furry tail. He ran back through the gap, back to his original column. At this point I considered leaving the rodent in the hole. But I’d already caused so much damage and missed a day of class. Too much of an investment. So I took the bucket, swung it over into his hole and started smacking him with it. I yanked the rope, pulled the bucket a few feet high, then dropped it back on his head. Within a few minutes of being continually beaten across the face, the rabbit ran back to my section. I grabbed him around the waist and threw him up to Charlotte. She grabbed him like a pro and passed him out to growing international crowd.
Somehow, he was alive. The only damage he suffered was a sprained ankle and some sticky fur. And I think the latter was from me hitting him with a bucket full of smashed bananas. All in all, I’d say that this day went about as well as it possibly could have.

When I was younger, I always wanted a pet rabbit. I thought they would be fun to play with. But no, I was wrong. They jump down nearly endless holes. They run from you when you try to save the. I spent nine hours in a ceiling and three in a wall. I think I’ll stick with dogs from now on.

Korean Sports Meet
Friday I went to a Korean sports meet. The first event involved kicking our shoes off our feet at great distances. The person who kicked their shoe off the farthest got a gift certificate to a Korean restaurant. I didn’t know this was a sport. But the Koreans took it seriously. They all wound their foot up with pure concentration and released their shoes at the perfect time.
My own shoe, like many of the other westerners, actually went behind my head. It looks like I’ll continue paying for my Korean food.
After the shoes flew, we had dodge ball, soccer, and foot volleyball competitions. I chose to compete in the foot volleyball. My trip to China was the first time I’d ever heard of this sport. Basically, they mixed soccer and volleyball together and created volleyball with your feet. Our team of westerners finished in dead last but it was a great experience. Why don’t we play this sport in the states? I think I’ll try to start a group when I get back.
After that I had to go to work so I missed most of the other events. I got back a few hours later, just in time to see everyone doing a relay. It involved balloon popping and running in circles. Oddly though, most of the Koreans were uncoordinated. They all appeared dizzy and were giggling as they tried to pop the balloons. I asked one of my friends who was competing what was going on. Through half closed eyes and a goofy smile on his face he told me that two events ago there was an alcohol drinking competition.
I’ve been to a few sports meets before. But this was definitely the first where alcohol was on the same list as soccer and a footrace. The Korean athletes staggered to finish until one, a friend of mine named Gook, finally popped a balloon. He won a plane ticket to Korea. I guess if you really want to win the prize you have to be dedicated to get it.

Technically Not in the Mafia

I was talking to my Russian roommate the other day about Qingdao. He’s lived here for a few years and knows the ends and outs of the city. At one point I asked him about the Russian mafia. I figured since he’s Russian he might know about these things. And one of my friends from the states said there was one in Qingdao. Ivan fell over laughing when I asked him this. “I’m the closest thing to the mafia that this town has,” he said in a thick Russian accent. I laughed too for a moment and then stopped as I realized what he said.
“Wait, have you been in the mafia?” I asked, suddenly thinking this might be a question you should ask your roommate before you agree to live with him.
He paused for moment and thought about it. After a bit he shook his head and said, “No, not really. I’ve done a little bit of lower level stuff back in Russia, but nothing big. Gangs, mostly.”
“Gangs?” I asked, still feeling like I should have been able to check the “no” box on a gang member roommate before coming to school.
“Not really gangs,” said Ivan sensing my worry. “We usually just lived in one spot of a town and played a lot of sports together. It was more like a team.”
I kind of gave a sigh of relief.
“—And occasionally we would require the local businesses and people to pay us a protection fee. Just little stuff like that.”
I sucked my sigh back up. I thought this was the best time to change the subject. I asked him why there wasn’t a Russian mafia in Qingdao. He told me that the bigger cities like Beijing and Shanghai had them but that it was hard to bring them into China. Foreigners have so few rights that they are not protected by the law.
He then went on and told me about a story where some guy came up and fought him in a restaurant. From what Ivan said, he knocked the man unconscious and waited for the ambulance to come pick him up. The police later expected Ivan to pay for the hospital bill. Ivan threw his hands up in disgust when he told this part of story. “In China you start a fight, you get your face bashed in, and you want people to pay for it. Terrible country.”
And looking back as I write this, I can’t help but think that I’ve given a false impression of Ivan. Don’t get me wrong, all of these stories are true, but the kid is definitely much deeper than he lets on. I think he is my closest guy friend living in China. With Florian back in France and the other Missouri State guys on a different schedule than me; I end up spending a lot of time with him. He’s opening a gym here in Qingdao in a week. And he’s already promised me free entry. I’m going to check it out this week. It has truly been a pleasure and an experience getting to know him. And he hasn’t even asked me to pay a protection fee yet.

Gossip Girl?
We have a new laoshi (Chinese teacher). Her name is Laoshi Dong. She is only twenty-six years old and is very enthusiastic in her teaching. Furthermore, her English is great. I can’t tell you how much easier it is to learn Chinese when someone can explain it in English.
Today, while we were in class, Saeroom, a girl from Korea, told the laoshi that she watched Gossip Girl this last weekend. This is a TV drama about rich kids who do terrible things to each other to get what they want. Real classy media.

Anyways, Laoshi Dong smiled and said that she also watched Gossip girl. Soon, every girl in the class, all from different countries, admitted to watching this show. In Chinese they started comparing the relationships, and the people, and the clothes. Soon, we started learning words for sunglasses, earrings, and pearls. We were literally learning from Gossip Girl. And now I know enough of the language that I couldn’t just tune them out. It was awful. There has never been such a painful class.

Bao Jiaozi
This last weekend Judith and I were invited to Ma Laoshi’s (our other teacher) house to make dumplings (called jiaozi in Chinese). This was my first time to be invited to a Chinese household. Ma lives with his mother and father in a small apartment. We also got to meet his niece and younger sister. They prepared bowls of chopped meat and vegetables and small dough patties. We were instructed to use chopsticks to put the ingredients from the bowl on the dough. Then we wrapped (called bao in Chinese) the dough and pinched its edges.
According to Ma’s niece, my bao jiaozi skills are bu hao (very bad). But they tasted delicious. Also, it was just interesting to be with Chinese people in their home. They are so hospitable. And they have these turtles that they keep in a bucket. They are fifteen years old and each the size of my head. This wasn’t the highlight of the day, but definitely interesting.
Also, after much practice, I think I know how to make my own dumplings. They won’t look very pretty, so I’ll need to concentrate on the taste.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Beacon

I mentioned once before that when foreigners come to China they usually experience a near-continuous abundance of illnesses. And I’m just another statistic. Last week I got hit with some kind of stomach bacteria.

I’m not really sure where I could have gotten this bug from. After all, China, being known for its cleanliness, has so few places where one could get something like this. I mean with street vendors who pick their noses, babies pooping on the street, and raw meat being prepared on dirty tables, what are the chances that people would get a little sick? Also this week, I learned that a large portion of street food meat is preserved with formaldehyde. That’s the stuff they put in dead bodies to keep them from rotting. I’m going to spend more time at the western restaurants for the remainder of my trip.

Anyways, I got sick. I couldn’t move from my bed for most of the week and I wasn’t able to hold down food either. I haven’t checked yet but I’m guessing I’ve lost about twenty pounds during my entire stay in China. Part has just been from the change of diet but most has been the sickness. That’s a lot of weight for me. I’m not exactly the kind of guy who’s going to be on the Biggest Loser anytime soon. Losing twenty pounds of me is like taking off a leg.

So that worried me a little. Finally though, after about six days of this stomach stuff I had my first hunger pains. And they were strong, healthy ones. That was worth a trip out of bed to me. It probably would have been smarter to follow my mom’s advice she use to give and eat something small, like crackers, but I was wound up about being hungry. So, I decided to eat at the least Asian place in China; McDonalds.

Like most of America’s finer culture (rap music, Justin Bieber, ect) fast food is becoming a big part of Chinese society. McDonalds, or as it’s pronounced here, My-dong-laow, is practically as native to this country as it is to ours. So I rushed out the door and started walking towards the McDonalds closest to my school.

It was a cool night and a thick fog had settled on the ground. I could only see about ten feet in every direction. Also, at this point I realized how dizzy I was from the lack of food I had eaten during the last several days. So I was staggering down a foggy Chinese street, all gaunt from a week without a meal, my arms slightly raised to keep my balance, and searching for McDonalds. I must have looked like something out of the Walking Dead.

Furthermore, I was giggling uncontrollably as I tottered down the road. Like a crazy person. The whole situation was too much. And I was just imagining what commentators would be saying had they been there. “Watch the American as he marches deep into the cold unknown, only wanting one taste of the Big Mac he has been so adamantly searching for.” I’m so stereotypical.

Then, to make it all the better, I took a moment to look up and figure out where I was. And there, in the distance, like a beacon of hope were the golden arches hovering in the sky. Because of the fog they looked like an angelic creature hovering in the distance, just far enough out of reach that I put my arms out to try and touch them.

And then a motorcycle honked and I realized I almost crossed a busy intersection without looking at the through-traffic. And I just stood there, not really caring about danger, just the big yellow arches. Surely this is proof that McDonalds is going to kill us. One way or another.

So I got my food. It wasn’t very good. And it made me sick. Next time I go a week with a stomach illness I’m going to start back to solid foods with crackers or bananas. Somehow, even in China, moms are usually right about these kinds of things.

Why Not

Today I felt pretty well so I went to the main market in Qingdao. I had paid a seamstress to create some clothes for me. She did a really good job on making a sports coat and a vest. However, she didn’t understand that most college boys in America don’t wear their pants above their belly button. And I haven’t covered a chapter in my Chinese class that uses either the words ‘belly button’ or ‘out of fashion.’ So I may come home dressing a lot more like my father. 

Also today, as I was out buying some food for my friend’s rabbit (I’ll tell you later), I came across a barber shop. I’d wanted to get a haircut for a few weeks now and this guy was offering one for two dollars. So he asked me what I wanted. I shrugged and told him to make me look Chinese. I figured it’s just hair. Worst case scenario I’d shave and it’d grow back in a few weeks.

So he cut my hair, and he did it very well. As he did I started looking at pictures of all the Asian models hanging on the walls. They had all dyed their hair bright colors of red, purple, and orange. And I asked the barber if he could do the same to my hair. He nodded and brought out some red paste. He didn’t put it everywhere but he put in a good amount. And it didn’t really turn my hair red. More of a maroon, much like my home university’s colors. It’s funny how these things work out.

So now I have maroon hair. When in China, dye your hair like the Chinese do.

Ham bow bow

My friend Judith had her birthday a few weeks ago and a group of us pitched in and bought her a pet rabbit. She really wanted one. So we went with her and picked out a long haired, gray rabbit, complete with his own Fu Manchu. He looks very wise. She named him Ham bow bow, the Chinese word for a western hamburger.

Unfortunately, Judith’s roommate is Korean. And most Koreans don’t do rabbits. This particular Korean didn’t do mice, cats, dogs, fish, and generally all animal life either. So keeping Ham bow bow in the picture was already posing some difficulties.

Thus, I became the owner of my very own rabbit. He’s sitting in a cage at my feet as I write this. Don’t worry, I let him out frequently. He just peed on my bed though so I thought it would be a good move to let him finish his business away from my personal belongings.

I almost have him potty trained. Almost. The occasional event like what he did on the bed happens. He has this weird obsession with finding white things in my room and doing his best to change their color.

I try only speaking to him in Chinese. I figure a Chinese rabbit should at least be spoken to in his home’s language. He’s a pretty good pet and he’s definitely growing on me. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with him when I leave.

Ivan the Merciless

My old roommate and dear friend, Florian has packed his bags and left China. He developed a pretty serious case of asthma and his family wanted him to come home. He was a great guy and I plan to visit him if I ever go to France.

In his place I have been sent Ivan. He is Russian. Already this worried me. The Russians living at Qingdao University have been responsible for a long list (more like a book series, including an afterthought prologue) of crimes that have happened, one including a fire extinguisher. They are also known for causing trouble late at night and getting into fights with the locals. So I’ll honestly say I had my stereotypes about Russians before Ivan arrived. This wasn’t fair to him.

But then I met the guy. And he was huge. And let me try to explain this the best way I can. I’ll use myself as a measuring tool because I assume most of you know my general size and shape. If you took seven of me and tied us all together you might start to see the volume of Ivan. He looks like the cartoons where they blow up their muscles with a basketball pump. This guy is a beast. Also, turns out he’s training to be a professional cage fighter. He knows like six kinds of martial arts. His trainer has just come up from Australia and they’re out everyday getting in shape.

So not only is this guy Russian, but he could probably kill me in multiple ways. Once again, I’ll let you all know that these details made me very wary of the situation. This wasn’t fair of me.

And sure enough, Ivan turned out to be a great guy. For instance, he sometimes brings me McDonalds when he has breakfast in the morning. I tell you what, in my book there’s no faster where to tear down a stereotype than with some hash browns.

Also, he wants to open up a gym here in Qingdao. And he’s invited me to come take a few lessons and train with him. I haven’t lately because I’ve been so sick but it definitely seems like a good opportunity. Furthermore, he’s never once sprayed me with a fire extinguisher or tried to punch me in my sleep. In fact, because he wants to stop snoring so loudly at night (and I would like this too) we have made an agreement that I can throw any object, animate or inanimate, so the bunny is now an option, in order to get him to stop. What more could I ask for in a roommate than someone I get to throw junk at?

So I was wrong about Ivan. I know he’s a Russian who resembles Rocky’s nemesis (ironically also named Ivan) but that doesn’t automatically make him a bad guy. Judging anybody isn’t right, especially when you don’t even know them.

At this point, I’m really trying to refrain from ending with something completely cliché about books and their covers. Perhaps, never judge a Russian cage fighter by his cage. Or maybe, don’t judge a Russian cage fighter until you know why he’s in the cage. I don’t know. Something might stick later. For now, I’ll just say that he’s a swell guy with a heart of gold…and fists of torment!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1, 2011

To my friends

I know many of you have suffered during the last few weeks and I want you to know that I’m thinking about you all.

I heard about the tornado while I was eating in a hostel in Xi’an. A Brazilian man who knew I was American asked if I knew of Joplin, Missouri. When I told him I had he showed me a series of pictures from around my home, displaying the destruction.

I can’t tell you how much I want to be with you right now to help physically but at the moment I am limited to thoughts and prayers. You are a strong community and I know you can overcome any hardship that comes your way. Continue to put your faith in each other and your faith in God.

I love and miss you,


The Wall- Xi’an

Sorry I haven’t messaged in awhile. I have been traveling throughout central China for the last week. I visited the ancient city of Xi’an. This is the home of the Terracotta Warriors that were discovered near the tomb of the first emperor of China. The most ancient part of Xi’an is surrounded by a wall and a moat. This has been the capital of several Chinese dynasties. So a few friends and I went to the wall. We rented bikes and traveled around the middle part of the city. It took about an hour and a half but we got to see the majority of the city. Also, there was a post showing where the Silk Road started. This is where the eastern traders started their long trek from Asia to Europe. It was one of the first real cultural exchanges between west and east.

Terracotta Warriors

The second day in Xi’an we visited the Terracotta Warriors. We went with a tour group that the hostel arranged. Our guide was a Chinese woman named Jah Jah. She quickly told us that her English name is Lady Jah Jah. So we went with Lady Jah Jah to see the ancient statues. They were created for the first emperor so he could have an army during his afterlife. At least 8,000 of the clay statues have been uncovered and more are expected to exist. All of the warriors have a unique face and equipment. Lady Jah Jah told us that the artists made the warriors faces in the same likeness of their own. That way their work would never be forgotten.

Another interesting fact is that most of the emperor’s tomb has not yet been uncovered. The Emperor’s chamber for instance, is still hidden in a mountain. The main reason for this is that he filled his tomb full of mercury. People can’t get inside. The government though has said they plan to break into the tomb within the next ten years.

The Muslim Quarter

On another day in Xi’an we went to the Muslim Quarter. It seems that the farther west you go the more religious tolerance exists in China. So there are many Muslims in this area. The quarter though, is a market that has all kinds of shopping and bartering. During my trip to Beijing I tried to barter but I didn’t speak any Chinese. And the Chinese love to mess with foreigners. I’m sure I was constantly scammed. But now that I have a fairly decent vocabulary under my belt, bartering is great fun. On some items I was able to knock the price down about 80%.

So I did a lot of shopping for a day. I don’t normally buy many things in the states but when you can get custom-made chess boards and hand carved masks for fewer than twenty dollars, it’s hard to say no. And there’s no greater feeling than getting a better price than a native Chinese speakers.

Also, I went to see one of the ancient puppet shows that are famous in Xi’an. This is a form of entertainment that was used for the less wealthy people during the first dynasty. It was interesting. The puppeteer came out in the beginning and told us that the story was about “monkey and pig.” Honestly, I didn’t see one monkey or pig in the entire show. Instead, there were two puppets that fought each other with sticks for about ten minutes. It was definitely an experience. But I’m glad we’ve upgraded to more meaningful entertainment than plot-less stories with endless fighting. Like Transformers. 


We went to the International Horticulture Expo too. My dad would be so proud. We didn’t really go for the flowers though. Instead we went because we heard the expo had pandas. I didn’t realize how rare pandas are in the world. There are only two zoos in America that have them at the moment and only a few others scattered here and there across the globe. So it was definitely a treat to see five pandas. However, after the initial shock of “wow a panda!” I started to realize that the black and white bears don’t do too much. I thought three of them were dead until one rubbed his belly. Then we saw some young pandas. They were only a couple of years old. These guys were sitting in trees reclining on branches when we found them. Once again, the only movement I saw was the subtle itch of a stomach. Still though, it was an experience that I will never forget.

After the pandas we got to see a final water show and boat show over a large lake. All the boats were decked out in flowers, lights, and bright colors. The whole event seemed a little out of place to me though. China, a country that appears to care so little about its environment held the International Horticulture Expo. I’m pretty sure most of the Chinese went to it because they had seen so little grass in their lives.

Zach’s Sock

I think I just found one of Zach Baughman’s socks in my laundry. I’m not really sure how it got there but I’ll be sure to take pictures with it around something stereotypically Chinese. Sorry, Zach.


After class this week a guy was waiting outside our building handing out fliers. He gave me one and began telling me about sailing. He said his company worked with sailboats and was offering a free ride to white people. I quickly explained that I had been white all of my life. He agreed and told me to come to his boat later in the week.

If this situation would have happened in America I would have walked away fearing a scam. But in China, things are rarely too good to be true. Instead, when someone offers you a free ride on a boat they actually want to give you a free ride on a boat.

So, I got to travel on the ocean around Qingdao and see the city and the mountains. It was amazing. I also realized why we were offered this opportunity. As we sailed around the harbor, the other Chinese people stopped what they were doing and took our pictures. They waved and got all of their friends to join. Pretty soon there was a small crowd of people watching us on our sailboat. We were free advertisement for the sailing company! In current Chinese culture, westerners are considered to be wealthy, interesting, and beautiful. Whether this is true or not the locals thought it was amazing to see us out on the waters.

I didn’t mind though. It was great to be in a boat on the ocean and learn how to move the sail so it can catch the most wind. In this situation I don’t mind being someone’s advertisement.


I stayed in my first hostel this last week. It was great. I have always heard stories about how dangerous and disgusting these places can be but I think ours was nicer than any hotel I’ve visited. True, we did sleep in a room with five people. But they, all being travelers, had the most appealing stories of the places they had visited. The Brazilian man I mentioned earlier went with us on several of our stops around the city.

The hostel itself was a mix between indoors and outdoors. Each of the corridors led from a set of rooms to a garden area that was covered with ivy. Also you could climb up to the roof and sit as you watched the city. It was beautiful

More importantly, there was a restaurant that had western food. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed bacon in the morning. I bought this bacon-esque Korean stuff that has a meaty texture but none of the taste. As sad as it is, I think the food may have been my favorite part of our trip.


My high school pupil has discovered context clues this week. I’m making him read articles in the local ex-pat newspaper. He’s quickly finding out that the meaning of most articles should only take up a few paragraphs while the rest is often fluff added for effect. He was able to find several lines where the same thought was repeated in different ways. I’m so proud.

Home in a month

I only have one month left in Qingdao and I’m honestly about ready to come home. This is an incredible country but I’ve quickly realized that it cannot compare to America. I think for the first time I’ve really come to appreciate that.

Before I go I’m trying to wrap up a few loose ends. All of my jobs need replacements and I’d like to travel once more. We’re looking at going to Inner Mongolia. This is one most northern parts of China. It’s next to the Gobi desert and I’d like to ride a camel through it if there’s the opportunity. I hope to send you more entries but there may not be time. I hope you all are well and I will talk to you soon.


Friday, May 6, 2011

International Clinic

If you ever come to China, bring as many medications as you can squeeze into your bag. You will get sick. Before I left the states, people gave me all kinds of advice on how to stay away from foreign illness. But in the debriefings they acted like these illnesses could be avoided. They can’t.

Almost every one of us has been sick during our stay in China. My roommate, Florian, has developed a bad case of asthma, my friend has been vomiting everyday for the last two months (she also fainted this weekend; that’s new), and I just got over a bladder infection. We’re just not used to China’s germs, smog, and unique standards of health.

So today we are getting ready to make our fifth trip to the international clinic. And we aren’t really sure what the experience will bring. Hospitals in the states are much different than they are here. One of the biggest variations is probably the doctor’s paycheck. I found out that a high paying doctor here only makes about $1500 a month. It makes since when most patients only pay $3.00 a visit. Even in a place where the cost of living is cheaper though, $1500 is not much. So as a result, a lot of the doctors that come into the hospital are under-qualified and rash. Also, many of them still practice forms of Eastern medicine that probably wouldn’t be considered safe in the West. We’ve heard all kinds of horror stories about students hurting the nerves in their hands after a doctor botched up a simple stitching. And my friend Judith was given the wrong medication last week. The doctor just got confused and gave her something for migraines.

Fortunately though, after a little searching, we have found an American doctor. Her name is Juliana. She came to Qingdao when her husband was transferred for his work. And I can’t tell you how grateful we are. Especially after I went to a testing room and saw a Chinese doctor hacking his patient’s ear with something that resembled a hammer and pick. So finding Juliana was like discovering jade. She’s been able to keep us patched up for the majority of our trip.

Don’t get me wrong, I love most parts of China. Just not the whole disease-ridden element. The Chinese don’t seem to mind it too much, but I’m used to waking up in the morning not worrying about breathing, vomiting, death, or death-like symptoms.

Just call me old fashioned.

Wu gui

I missed my dog this week so I bought some turtles (Wu gui). Their names are Phelps, because he’s a talented swimmer and awkward on land, and Han Solo, first because the Han dynasty had turtles as their national animal and second because Star Wars is cool.

Driving in China

Today, as we were riding in a taxi, we got so close to another car that I could not only see the whites of the driver’s eyes next to us but also my reflection in those eyes. And I had one of those “holy smokes, I’m going to die,” looks on my face.

I feel like Chinese people have the bad stereotype of being terrible drivers. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Instead, they’re some of the best drivers in the world. They have the ability to get within inches of other cars and move in and out of traffic without harming themselves or anyone else.

In the small city of Qingdao, roughly nine million people, I have only seen one car wreck. And yet, when the light turns green at four-way stops and all four groups of cars seem to be going at each other, no one gets into a wreck. And all the while pedestrians are dodging in synchronized movements across the street. It’s like watching blood cells run through the body.

More Animals

I found out today that my turtles are girls. Oh well, I always thought Han Solo was a gender neutral name anyways.

When I decided to get pets I didn’t realize the effect it would have on the rest of the dorm community. My turtles attracted too much attention. Soon other people started getting animals as well. A British guy and a Dutch girl bought some water snakes, several people are getting fish, both my neighbor and two of the American girls bought rabbits (Easter fever), and I think I saw bird cages hanging off the balcony of a Korean girl’s room. Also, some of the Middle Easterners were playing with a yorkie on the basketball court the other day. This may be getting out of hand.

I wish I could have started a helpful trend in the dorm like exercising more, reading the Bible, or staying away from Snicker Bars, but all I’ve accomplished is the mass purchase of pets.


Extreme Roller Skating

For Amy’s half birthday,(we’re still celebrating those), we went to the city roller rink. In my hometown we have a Skate Land. It’s a great place for children and their families to play and have an afternoon of socialization and exercise.

But In China it’s serious.

These kids have been skating their entire lives. They spend about half of their time going backwards and the other half doing tricks that look like a mix between figure skating and martial arts. About ten foreigners walked in with me, big dopey faces etched across our faces. We were not prepared.

At home you stop going to the skating rink about your tenth birthday. Then you move on to bigger and better things like bon fires, movie theatres, and camping.

But in China it’s serious.

As we reached the main floor, the Chinese people were forced to play a healthy game of dodge the foreigners. They rolled their eyes as we stumbled onto the floor and gracelessly ruined their in sync motions. I am going to stay off the wheels from now on.

If you can’t beat them, feed them

I have a new tutoring job on Fridays where I teach four Chinese boys to speak English. Their names are Jerry, Oliver, Mike, and Fat Tom.

Now let me start by saying that I like children. I even plan to have some in the future. But these four kids are some of the worst human beings I have ever had the opportunity to meet. They fight each other, cry, steal my shoes, break expensive pieces of artwork, and constantly throw toys at me. They’re part of the spoiled generation of Chinese single children.

At first though, I thought I could fix them. I was sure that with a little hard work they would learn to have a deep appreciation for English and in the end turn away from their wicked ways. So I spent hours preparing games, lessons, and songs for them to do.

But it didn’t work. So after a month of being bitten, punched, and kicked in the crotch I decided to use a different teaching method. Bribery.

Now during each tutoring session I start by pulling out a package of Mentos. The boys see the food and immediately sit down. Fat Tom drools a little bit and Oliver’s crying fits turn into a series of weak sniffles. My monsters slowly turn back into children. Then I bring out a chart. It has each of their names on it with a five circles underneath. The circles stand for candy. If they do so much as look like they’re about to start punching me in the crotch I put a big mark on those circles and they lose a piece of candy.

We have learned verbs, adjectives, proper nouns, and basic grammar. Fat Tom has not missed a single question. I may be creating a future problem for the kid but at the moment he is learning English. That’s enough for me.

Kites, Motorcycles, and baby butts (oh my)

May first was Labor Day in China and we received a day off school. So we locked our books up, cancelled our English tutoring sessions, and headed out on a daytrip. We all wanted to visit Weifang, the kite capital of China. We heard it was an amazing place and couldn’t wait to see it for ourselves.

To get there we had to travel by train. I had never done this before, and once again, I expected something out of Harry Potter to pick us up at the station. But instead it was a slow-moving, stuffy train with tightly packed Asians and six Americans. I don’t think we ever went faster than twenty-five miles per hour. There was a little lady who sold refreshments though. But instead of Bertie Botts and chocolate frogs she sold chicken feet and processed ham balls. It was a good cultural experience though and a great way to see some of the country side.

Once we got to Weifang we first started looking for some food to eat (Chicken feet just don’t tide you over like they should). All the places on our tourism sheet didn’t seem to actually exist but we found a hole in the wall restaurant and waited for our chance to enter. It was here that I was first approached by a baby.

In Qingdao, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of Westerners. They are in town for school, work, retirement, long term vacations, finding wives, etcetera. So most of the Chinese are accustomed to seeing Wai gou ren (white people) out on the streets. They still point and stare, but more in the way that we would if we see a deer or a groundhog in Joplin, Mo. It’s only a little rare, and therefore only deserves a slight passing look.

Now in Weifang, seeing a Wai gou ren is like seeing a Polar bear walking down the streets of Carl Junction while he simultaneously composes his own symphony.

Sorry for the ridiculous comparison (no one writes symphonies in Carl Junction), but you need to understand how few white people actually come to Weifang. The second we stepped off the train we immediately became part of the tourism industry. People were taking pictures of us, running up to look at us, and even stopping in traffic to point out to the rest of the town that Wai gou ren were here.

So while we waited for food I turned to see a baby being shoved into my face by his mother. He was a cute thing, fat like the rest of the Chinese babies, and it was clear that I was expected to hold him. So I did. His mother and the rest of the street stopped what they were doing and took pictures as the kid drooled on my neck and reached out for his mother. I tried to calm him down by letting him sit in my hand and cradle him back and forth. That’s when one of the American girls pointed out the rip in the baby’s pants.

In China it’s acceptable to have your children poop on the ground. In fact, I’d go as far to say that it’s accepted and expected. They sell the baby clothes with big rips in the butts that they can use whenever and wherever they want. If you ever come to China please watch your step.

So it was then that I realized that I was holding this literally butt naked baby while his parents were turning this into a photo shoot. Someone tried to hand another baby butt kid to Judith but she found him too dirty to risk the chance. As I continued to hold my own baby butt kid in my hand, I couldn’t really blame her.

After we were called in to eat, I quickly gave the kid back to his parents, waved one last time like I was on a parade float, and slid into the restaurant. Then I took Daniela’s bottle of hand sanitizer and bathed in it.

Once we saw the restaurant though, I realized that cleanliness didn’t matter too much. The place was pretty disgusting. And the waitresses had an accent unlike Qingdao’s that I couldn’t understand. Fortunately, Hunter, a boy who came to China several years before the rest of us, was there to translate. He told us that we had wandered into a burrito bar. A burrito bar that actually served donkey. So for the first time in my life I ate a burro burrito. Not too bad, tasted like brisket.

After lunch we went to the kite museum. It was a beautiful place that displayed the history and design of the kites. Did you know that a battle was actually won with a kite once? The Chinese military put a man in a giant kite and flew him over the enemy’s encampment. And, as the story goes, the man sang songs from the enemy’s own culture. They all became homesick and demoralized. Then the Chinese attacked and destroyed them all. So parents, next time you give your children a kite, seriously consider the repercussions it might have.

When we were done looking at kites, we decided to go buy some of our own. We went out to the square to see hundreds of kites being flown above us of all shapes and sizes. It was an amazing sight. And there were kite salesmen everywhere. Unfortunately, it was quickly ruined by several Chinese police officers who wanted to chase the kite sellers off. I ran with a saleswoman as the police followed, trying to get a good deal for a kite. After she realized that the police were gaining she told me to go.

So the six of us walked around the square without kites. We started to think that we would leave the Kite city without so much as a trash bag held up with two sticks. Shortly after though, the same woman who was running from the cops drove up to us on a motorcycle and told us to get on. It felt like a getaway scene of a movie until we realized that four people couldn’t fit on a motorcycle at the same time. So she motioned to Daniela to join her.

A few weeks ago, Daniela and I realized that neither of us had ever ridden a motorcycle. We made it our challenge to get on one before the trip was over. So I quickly encouraged Daniela to jump on the bike of a stranger and go find kites with the illegal Chinese saleswoman. And as she left into the distance and turned the corner out of sight, I recognized how bad of an idea that actually was. I chased after her with the rest of the group and tried calling on my cell phone. Thank goodness she answered. She told us to walk around the corner and jump into the bushes.

Sure enough, two hundred meters away, we went around some underbrush and found an outdoor kite shop. Daniela was safe (and she’d ridden a motorcycle). So we got right down to business. I quickly found the kite I was looking for. A three dimensional hawk kite that, when all unfolded, had a nine foot wing span. As custom, the Chinese saleswoman over-priced it and we had to barter. She started out wanting me to pay 80 RMB (12ish dollars), but I got her to come down a bit. In the end I told her I would only pay 70 RMB if she gave me a spool of string and lessons on her motorcycle. She agreed and after the giant hawk was packed up, her husband took me out to the sidewalk.

I only fell into the bushes once. It was much better than the other option of hitting my friends. But after that, I made a few trips up and down the sidewalk. The salesman wasn’t too happy with my progress. But hey, it’s difficult to learn to do anything when your teacher screams in a language that you barely know.

It was a very successful trip altogether. I ended up purchasing six kites. I’ll try and send you some pictures of them.

I hope you all are well and I’ll see you in a few months.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Xuzhou mama hoo hoo.

So I mentioned last time that I was getting ready to go on a business trip to Xuzhou, China. I’m going to say right now that you should ignore everything I said in the previous blog. So many surprises can happen when you agree to go with a foreign person to a foreign place, without a real sense of why you are going, and when you will return.

But it was certainly an experience. First of all, two of the American girls, Judith and Daniela went with me. They, going for the vacation aspect of the trip, started planning out what we were going to do between my work hours. In their guidebooks they read that the city we were visiting was one of the most beautiful in China. It had festivals, gardens, grand mountains, ancient artifacts, and something called the Temple of Wonders. So we were excited when we found out we were headed to one of the most sacred and famous places in all of China. Everywhere we went people kept saying how wonderful our trip was going to be.

Unfortunately, I had been pronouncing the name of the city incorrectly. I had been calling the place Suzhou. But we were not headed to Suzhou, but Xuzhou.

Now Xuzhou has some decent things about it but it’s not in the same league as Suzhou. It’s like eating a Pop Tart when you know there are artery-clogging biscuits and gravy in the next room. When we told our Chinese Laoshi where we were actually headed he gave us a sigh of pity. He said, “Xuzhou mama hoo hoo.” Basically this means that Xuzhou isn’t terrible but it’s not fantastic either.

Next, we didn’t take a train like I thought. We took a sleeping bus. It was supposed to have beds, pillows, and blankets for us to utilize while we enjoyed our peaceful journey through the night. When I heard about this vehicle I imagined it would look something like the Night Bus from the third Harry Potter movie.

But unlike the British wizards, we got this rickety-looking deathtrap. It was behind all the other nice busses at the bus station. The one that they try to hide in the back so customers are forced to feel committed by the time they walk out and see it.

When we got on, there were about forty bunk-beds crammed together; some full of sleeping Chinese men. It felt like a morgue as we walked through the line of still bodies.

The girls and I took the place in the back. Within thirty minutes of our eight hour luxury bus ride, we started to itch as bugs from the blankets and pillows began biting us. We’re lice free though so that’s good. The bugs in our hair must have already eaten the lice.

Oh, and once nine o’clock hit the temperature dropped about twenty degrees. But there was nothing we could do so we just laughed at our situation until we reached the nearly nice city of Xuzhou.

The next morning I started working for Shen. He had invited me to his home-town so he could use me for an experiment he was working on. That day he recorded me saying the sentences the Americans and I had edited for him. He is going to play those recordings back to people and see how their brains react to those words. I’m not really sure how it all works but it seems very interesting.

After work, Shen took the three of us out to see the sights of Xuzhou. It’s actually a fascinating place. We flew kites in a park, saw a mountain, and visited the ancient tomb of a prince from the Han Dynasty. The tomb was looted several years ago but many of the ancient writings and statues remained in museums nearby. What’s amazing about China is that many of the characters used in their writing thousands of years ago are still being used today.

At one point Shen also taught me the rules of Chinese Chess. It’s an exciting game that has many similar rules and pieces as the Chess we play in the states. Someday I want to play the old Chinese men in the parks. They get really serious about this and large crowds form and start chanting for their favorite player. It's like extreme Chess.

Finally, as the trip was ending, Shen took us out to eat with his family. We got to meet his daughter and wife. Many Chinese people want English names when you meet them so I was given the opportunity to name his daughter. I called her Maria after my sister.

On the way home we took a normal bus. There were no beds, freezing temperatures, or insects. So all together, I’d say it was a great trip. I got to work with a scientist, take tours through tombs, and see all the sights of this mama hoo hoo city.

I could go for a Cheesy Gordita Crunch

I found out today that the closest Taco Bell is in South Korea. I am a country away digestional happiness. So if anyone has a sudden urge to overnight me a package please have it include one of everything from the TB menu. And maybe a few of those hot sauce packets with the friendly messages on them. It’s practically as good as writing a letter.



We went to the Laoshan Mountains today. They are some of the most famous mountains in China. It was a good climb that lasted about two hours and we reached a Bogotá at one of the larger peaks. I’ll load some pictures when I get a chance. It was one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever taken.

Korean food

A Korean girl named Nabi invited my roommate Florien, Judith, Kim, and I to her house for dinner. She lives with her brother, his wife, and their two sons. This was my first experience to eat with a Korean family.

I mentioned earlier that Koreans are extremely giggly people. However, I neglected to say how amazing they are. All of the Korean’s I’ve met have done everything in their power to make me feel comfortable and welcome in all situations. Like on Laoshan I was complaining about being hungry. Almost immediately a group of Koreans rushed me with egg salad, sandwiches, and some kind of processed meat substance on a stick. They the nicest people I’ve ever met.

The Koreans we had dinner with were no exception. They treated us like family. And it was interesting to experience the cultural differences. For example, we had to wear special shoes when we entered the doorway. Koreans consider walking into a home with shoes to be rude and dirty. So we all got to wear Korean flip flops. Big fan.

And the food was amazing. There was some kind of black bread, a meat and pasta dish, and a chewy yellow thing that ended up being squid. It was the second best meal I’ve had since I’ve been here. The first would be Pizza Hut.

Another interesting part about the Koreans is that they eat on the floor. They have these little tables that come about a foot-and-a-half off the ground. The family sits on the carpet around these tables and enjoys the food. Most Korean households have heated floors that they use during meals to keep themselves warm. I felt honored to have such an experience.

The Most Bravest

In Chinese class we had to read a passage out of the textbook to the entire class. We were supposed to read it like lines from a script so everyone was partnered up the night before. Judith was my partner. Ma Laoshi told us he would pick out the best group in the class.

Not that I’m competitive or anything, but I told Judith that we were going to win at all costs. She, being the kind of girl who will likely take over the world in a few years, agreed with me. So we went home and practiced for hours. I will admit right now that I’m not the best at Chinese and memorizing the characters along with their tones is a struggle. But we worked really hard. I even ripped an audio version of the text onto Audacity and listened to it while I slept. We were positive that we would be good, if not be the best, during the presentation.

As the next day rolled around though, Judith and I went up and presented. I thought we did alright; not as good as I had expected, but alright. Then the Laoshi went around and told us how each group ranked in the class. This is a terrible thing that Chinese people do. It’s supposed to encourage students to put all of their effort into not being humiliated in front of their peers. Ranked first was the American and Russian team from the back row. But that was okay, we didn’t have to be at the very top of the class. But when we weren’t the second or third best I started to get a little worried. And when the seventy-four-year-old Korean man who recently decided he wanted to be a Chinese translator when he “grew up” was chosen before us, I kind of slouched in my seat all defeated like. Judith just laughed. She’ll be a good politician someday.

Finally, when everyone BUT Judith and I had been ranked from first to last, the Laoshi turned to us. He gave a smile of pity and waved his arm while saying the least encouraging words possible. “And I think that you two deserve the title of Most Bravest.”

He smiled once more like the name he had reserved for us would make the situation better. Basically we received the Chinese version of the best effort award. That’s the worst award you can get no matter what culture you’re living in. And it wasn’t even in proper English!

So, I ate a Snicker Bar to ease the cold chill of defeat. On the bright side, this event and others like it have given me the drive to excel in my studies. When I tell my Laoshi I don’t understand something in class he simply looks me in the face and tells me to “work harder.” It’s a heartless strategy but I can’t say it’s not working. Between class and homework I’m doing at least eight to ten hours of studying a day. I’ve never felt more Chinese.

What Happened to the Hole?

I was thinking the other day that Chinese people are just like ants in an ant hill. They are always scurrying about doing different jobs but all for the common goal of the making the whole (China) better. And their work ethic makes us Americans look like we’re running in slow motion.

Last week I walked to class and there was a pothole in the road. It was new hole. A few hours later I came down for a break and the hole was gone. New stone and everything. Do you know how long it takes to fill a hole in Southwest Missouri? It could take months! Sometimes entire traffic routes seem permanently changed because people are working on the road. This hole took a few hours.

And some days I’ll wake up and see an entirely new building outside my window. Where did it come from? Was that building there before? This is a fair question, seeing as I’m not the overly-observant type. But it still seems strange at how quickly things get done here.

It really is amazing. They’re like the elves from that shoemaker story. But instead of shoes they make roads. I’ll take a picture if I’m ever fast enough to catch them in mid-project.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day to Day Stuff

Hey everyone,

I've attached a few pictures to my blog. They're in no particular order but it should give you some idea of what's been going on.


Will Complain for Food

Last week all of the westerners in our class were given a survey testing our English abilities. It was made-up of sentences and we had to rate their word choices. Unfortunately, most of the test was grammatically incorrect. Also, there were several sentences that were stereotypical. For example, "Like all American women, she had blue eyes and long blond hair," or "The main foods in America are bacon, eggs, toast, and orange juice."

We enjoyed making fun of it for the first page. But this thing ended up being thirteen pages long. Single spaced. And after page seven I was just ticked off. So I went through each sentence and corrected it.

At the end of the test I wrote a note to telling them they needed to fix their test. I also briefly mentioned that I would help them if they were interested. Don't do this lightly in China.

If I had complained in America, people would have probably looked at my note, rolled their eyes, ignored it, and gone on. But here, they took it to heart. The next day a man named Shen came to our dorm looking for me and the rest of the Americans. He studies neurolinguistics in southern China and wanted help perfecting his latest experiment.

I was at work so he asked the other Americans to help correct his sentences. It's funny; he didn't even seem annoyed that I called his test poorly constructed. Instead, he was ecstatic when he heard about English speakers who wanted to fix his work. The Americans however, were not quite as thrilled. It turns out that I had missed several corrections (after page nine I must have stopped caring). They spent hours fixing and recreating this Chinese guy's test.

At the end of the day though, when they had made a rough draft, he took us all out to dinner at Pizza Hut. And the next day, when we all finished a final draft, he took us to McDonald's. It was the most American food I've eaten since we've been here. I have missed hambabows (Chinese word for hamburgers. Fun to say, better to eat).

What's more, he has now offered to send me to some province in southern China so he can study me reading these sentences. If all goes well, I will be traveling by train this Thursday night and spend most of the weekend in Xuzhou. It's an expense-free trip, I will have a day for travel and vacation, and they are going to pay me. In America I would call this whole situation rather sketchy. In China though, this kind of thing happens all the time. I'll let you know how it goes.


Just a fancy Cellar

That cave that I was so interested in was just some ancient cellar that was dug out of the mountain. Once I got my body all the way in I found a chiseled wall and a low roof. It only went back about ten feet. No hallways, no underground waterfalls. Just a hole. I brought my rope and head lamp for a hole.

Dodo and a Coffee Shop

I’m still teaching at the preschool a few days a week. Up until now I have only been reading to the kids and making crafts with them. This last weekend though, we had an open house where parents came and watched me give a demo lesson to their kids. If all goes well, I will soon have my own class that I will be in charge of teaching.

The four kids that came Saturday are amazing. All of them are under six years old and have not spoken English before. It’s an exciting experience.

Like many of the Chinese, the children all have English names. This makes it easier for me to remember them all. My kids are named Hawk, Winnie, Apple, and Dodo. I have heard the name Apple several times here but Dodo is a new one. I asked his parents again to make sure I had heard them correctly. I hadn’t. Instead, his name is actually Doodoo.

But I will not call one of my students Doodoo. Think of all the trouble he would have if he ever went to America. So I made them switch it to Dodo. It’s better. Not much, but still better. The boy doesn’t know the difference between the two names and responds just well to either of them. Once he starts learning more words I will encourage him to change it to something different. Until then I will have Apple, Winnie, Hawk, and Dodo. A fruit, a bear, and a couple of birds. This is the beginning of my class and I hope to see it grow soon.

Also in the work news, I have been hired by the CEO of a construction company as an English tutor. Their business sells equipment and building materials internationally and exports to the western countries. They are even hiring foreigners. My new boss wants to perfect his English ability and give speeches for his new European and American employees.

My job will be to improve his pronunciation, add to his vocabulary, discuss American culture, and write speeches for him to present to his foreign workers. I feel like the guy in King Speech (good movie. Check it out). And I think, if I understand his secretary correctly, that I was invited to the company get-together at the end of the month. We’re going mountain climbing. I will bring my rope and head lamp.

The best part though is that I will be tutoring my new boss at a coffee shop. The CEO’s assistant took me with him to the café and I was able to pick out which table we would study at. I guess this guy is going to rent out that section of the coffee shop for us every week.

That’s all for now. I hope you all are well. Please feel free to email me while I’m here. My address is p.schism@hotmail.com


Tuesday, March 15, 2011


First of all, we’re safe. Qingdao has remained untouched by the earthquakes that caused so much damage in Japan and southwest China. Please be praying for the ministries and humanitarians who are already taking action to help the people who live in these places. Tragedy seems more realistic when you’re living close to it.

I honestly didn’t know much about the earthquakes until I talked to some of the people at church this last Sunday. What little news we receive is all in Chinese. So church was the first time I heard anything. I am attending the international Christian church in Qingdao. It’s a legal church for foreigners. Only foreigners. Chinese people are not allowed entrance due to laws by the incredibly “tolerant” government. However, we’ve heard through the grapevine that churches with eight or less people are only considered in-home meetings. I’ve met several people who have offered to take us to these meetings and show us around. Eight Christians may not seem like much but neither did Twelve.

Until then though, I will continue going to the international church. It’s amazing to see so many people from different nationalities worshiping together. And I’m going bowling with the singles group next weekend. Also, they’ve introduced us to the ExPats that live in town. ExPat, or Ex-Patriots, are foreigners from all over the world who have banded together in China. They have their own magazine, events, and helpful tips that can save a foreigner like me so much time.

Classes are still going well. We had our first test. It was all based on tones and pronunciations. There are four main tones in the Chinese language. One that is said at a high pitch, one that is ascending (like a question in English), one that goes down and then back up, and one that is descending (like a sentence that ends with an exclamation point). The trouble with these tones is that the same word can have several different meanings. The word “Ma” in the first tone means mother. The word “Ma” said with the third tone means horse. Not a good word to be confused about. I could say all the words correctly in a sentence and mean something entirely different than what I intended. This is a great country.

Oh and I received my Chinese name. It’s Lǜ dēnglóng. In an exact translation it means Green Lantern. I almost fell out of my chair when I got it.

Also this week I climbed the Lao Shang mountains. They were large but not very steep. It took us about four hours. We found a cave and we’re going to explore it on Wednesday. Luckily, I brought my headlamp and rope. Never leave home without your headlamp and rope.

I'll be sure to tell you how it goes.



Today I went to Kungfu class. The dorm offers lessons for all of the exchange students. Right now we are just punching the air and working on our form. It’s a great workout and everyone’s improving quickly. My French roommate, some of my German friends, and the American girls are all doing it with me. The teachers for the group are two short Chinese men. They look like they're pushing seventy and they can’t speak a word of English. So instead, the two of them just walk around kicking us until we get our form and position correct. For men so old, they still can pack a punch. One that was half my size knocked me backwards with a flick of his thumb. The more they punch the faster I learn.

Some of the students who attend the class are amazing. They have been at the university for several semesters. There are these two Italian girls who know how to fight with bow staffs and swords. If we continue training we might be able to get to this point too. I’m really enjoying everything and I will keep training until our Kungfu show in May. I’ll keep you posted on how things are going. Once I'm not getting punched as much I'll try uploading a video of one of our lessons.


My half Birthday

The American girls thought it would be nice to celebrate my half birthday. I didn’t know there was such a thing. But they insisted. So on March 10, Amy, Kim, Daniela, and Judith, went above and beyond on a holiday that didn't exist. And I am incredibly grateful.

I woke up to my room plastered with posters and streamers. They made me breakfast in bed and took me out to Pizza Hut in the evening. Now Pizza Hut is always a big deal but in China it’s a fancy restaurant. There are appetizers, fancy desserts, and classical music. And we’ve been living off Chinese food for the last three weeks so this felt like a real luxury. What’s more, the girls brought gifts and even a cake. Among the gifts was a bottle of Welch’s Grape Juice. I practically lived off the stuff in the states and it’s rare in China. It really meant a lot. There’s nothing better than pizza and grape juice.

The entire day they did things to celebrate. It was the best half birthday I’ve ever had.



Okay, this is less of a post a more of an observance. I'm not usually one for stereotypes but this keeps happening again and again. There are few people in this world that laugh more than the Koreans. They are the most giggly people I have ever seen. If I hear a high-pitched squeal from somewhere across campus I can be sure it's a group of Koreans. And it's not just when things are funny. They laugh when they're nervous and they laugh when they're confused. So in a place where their language isn't spoken they spend a large part of their days giggling. One of my friends has a Korean roommate. She practically communicates through giggles. There are few recognizable words. Just giggles. The French have their cheese, the Russians their alcohol, and the Koreans their giggles.