Sunday, September 16, 2012

Phone Videos

You know all those videos you take with your phone that you never do anything with? I have a lot of those which could tell a big part of my Chinese experience but I rarely look at them, much less use them. Well I took a bunch of those and collected some from friends to help life in Nanchang come alive for you.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Cleaning Up and Setting Off

I have enjoyed giving U of M paraphernalia to my Chinese friends here in at Jiangxi Normal University. It is a good way to share a part of home with them. There have also been a lot of teachers here from the state of Michigan and State fans far outnumber me. However there are FAR more people walking around campus supporting Michigan!!!

Saying goodbye to one of the teachers that we have gotten to know best.

There was this pile of stuff that sat at the foot of my bed all year long because it was left here by a friend who was too lazy to do it himself. So it sat there in bitterness because 1) I didn't want to do it 2) Although it looked hideous it didn't take up much space 3) I HATE going to the post office and being told that I can't send stuff and usually not understanding why they are telling me that 4) I knew I couldn't do it by myself. 
We ended up getting a 3-wheeled vehicle to carry it over for us.

 Double-bagged and weighed at the post office with the guys who helped me out.

 One of the best things about being a teacher is that your students end up everywhere. I went through Shanghai on my way home so I was able to meet up with Jenny, one of my non-English Major students there. She's working as something like an accountant/financial advisor. When she was in Nanchang she and a few other students always hunted for awesome restaurants and then we would all go together when they found a great one. So I knew it was a given that we would have great food. This time it was Hong Kong cuisine and so amazing.

Traveling light: I donated almost all of my stuff to the incoming teachers for next year and sent home a bag and two boxes, each about the size of my carry on here. Not bad for 6-years worth of stuff! Thus I was able to head to Europe for three weeks with no checked baggage.

Personality Shock

I've already talked about this a little bit before ( but I'd like to go back and expound on the culture shock phenomenon as I have experienced it.

When people ask me how it is to be back in America I usually say something like "I'm eating hamburgers and speaking English! Not bad, not bad at all!" That's true. I don't really struggle coming back and seeing America because truthfully I'm not gone that long and China is becoming very modern, very quickly. Some things strike me as strange at times when I come home: most recently when I walked into Home Depot the word, "Opulence" hopped out of my mouth and my brother was a little confused about what I was talking about. That just hit me in the face because people don't have the kind of money you need to spend on making a house beautiful.

What bothers me the most is the attention that I get in China. First, there is constant attention. That's not normal. Some personality types hardly even notice it. Mine does. It has occurred to me that no matter how used to China I am, China will never be used to me. Every time I walk to class I get stares and regularly people blurt out something in English to see if they can get some kind of reaction out of me. It  can be funny and doesn't bother me 90% of the time but eventually it gets to you.

Second, is the intensity of the attention. Caucasians are somewhat like celebrities in China. I was never bothered by this extra attention for about a year and a half. Let's face it, I like being noticed, fussed over, and told that I'm handsome by girls I don't know! Whenever a foreigner does something - sings a song or tells a joke - it receives a reaction that is extremely disproportionate to the excellence of the performance, injected with a fair amount of swooning. It's kind of fun but you can't trust it. Eventually it feels similar to being treated like a three-year-old and over time it makes the people reacting this way seem entirely insincere and to some degree, undesirable as potential friends.

Over the past two or three years I have found myself closing off to people in a way that I never had before. As a way of coping with the transient nature of a campus community that always changes and having very few close friends I have become less and less interested in meeting new people. Sometimes I will just be indifferent when meeting people in hopes that they won't really want to hang out. I'm going to meet and invest in at least 200 new students every year anyway. Why punish myself, right? That's not the way I want to treat people. That's not the way I want to be. I hope to find some friends that I can really connect with during my next year in the USA and start to heal this ugly side of myself.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kung Fu Mountain (武功山 Wu Gong Shan)

I can't stop talking about Wugong shan. This was my last big trip with a group of students before heading home indefinitely. This is before we got tired and sweaty. We are about to ascend to the highest point in Jiangxi Province. 

On the climb up I was overwhelmed by the beauty around me. This trip was so refreshing for me. With 65 lbs. on my back it seemed like my body was crying out to stop but I didn't even care because it was so awesome to be out there in it all. Breathtaking views distracted me at almost every turn.

Here you can see the typical responses to climbing a mountain of the two genders. The climb took us about 4.5 hours and we cheated by taking a lift half of the distance.

As soon as we got to the top we set up camp and pulled out the frisbee for some mountain disc before the sun went down and it started cooling off.

We woke up early to see the sunrise come up over the mountains and it was chilly.

In the clouds!

We took 45 minutes for a retreat of silence 

As we got ready to leave there was a beautiful mix of cloud and Sun that was best captured here with Chase bringing back memories of The Sound of Music.

We descended the second day of our trip which was painful because our legs were so sore from the climb. I ended up literally jogging down the mountain because it hurt so much to stop my weight on every step so I just let it carry me down.

One of my best friends in China on one of our last adventures...for now. 

I think this was the best trip I have been on. Perhaps it had been far too long since I had been out in nature. Perhaps it was because the students who went on this trip were really close friends. Perhaps it was the fact that it was a physical challenge. All I know is that this was too short and I want to go back with enough time to wander some of the trails up at the top. I've heard of people hiking 4 days out in this area. Who's with me?

Monday, July 30, 2012


The Princeton-in-China speech training is just what it sounds like and YES we're talking about the elite school from the east coast! Somehow through her connections and hard work my teammate Connie was able to get a group of teachers from Princeton to go to our unknown, second-tier university for nearly a month of training which just ended a few days ago.

Some of our school and administration was against it from the beginning especially Dean Rao - who is ironically thanked several times - because of the cost and hassle. Really? This is Princeton we're talking about here! You don't turn that down even if you sink the college funds for a few months. Anyway Connie along with common sense, won out and I don't think that the leaders of our school got any kickbacks for this session which is usually seen as something they are entitled to. Perhaps that was the real reason for their lack of excitement but I can't say for sure. It was - for once - all about the kids.

Here is a video link of the training conference. Though it is a little long it gives you a good picture of the classrooms that we use and the energy our students have. This is fun for me to see since I know all but 10 of these students and a few of them are very good friends. What an amazing opportunity for them! Good on ya Constance!!!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Things You Might See in Nanchang, China

1. A gorgeous sunset at the Square

2. The elderly practicing Taiji, a slower form of Kung Fu similar to Yoga
in it's goal of peace of mind.

3. The Emergency Room with all your neighbors.

 4. Funny little signs translated by a computer

5. Sports equipment saleswomen sleeping on treadmills - a strong selling point!

6. Obama's Bike! really, his name is on that thing!

7. A bike with no room for Obama

8. Split Pants

9. Change. A subway is being built so they are closing the underground walkways for construction. Thus the overhead walkways.

10. Modernization: Western brands are everywhere. 
Can you guess what is going in next to that KFC?  

Jodi guessed it. A Starbucks is coming. I was days from seeing it's opening. I have been hearing rumors about a Starbucks in Nanchang for six years and now it will come and I won't be around for it. Ridiculous!