Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Christmas is less than two weeks away! But it doesn't really feel like the Christmas season here - though it's not too infrequent that we spot poster cut-outs of Santa Clause displayed in the windows of businesses. However, since these decorations stay up year round, it hardly brings us into the Christmas spirit when we see them now. I went shopping in the Korean market last week, and there were a few shops which had brought in some Christmas trees and decorations. Most of it's pretty tacky, but it's nice to see Santa faces and green and red colors splashed across everything. I got to thinking that what we needed was something to put us in the Christmas mood. We needed the atmosphere of Christmas. At home you can't get away from everything Christmas (i.e., holiday music on the radio or coming from stores, houses lit up with lights, people gearing up for parties, crowds at the malls, people making traveling plans and talking about how they will spend the holidays). So we decided to have a "get in the spirit of Christmas" party Saturday night at my place. Brian had inherited a lot of things from the previous teachers here including some holiday decorations. I spent Saturday afternoon attempting to decorate my house with leftover Christmas decorations, and we found strings of lights in the Korean market that I strung up in my living room. Darla, Rena and Jaime made all kinds of Christmas desserts, and we filled my apartment with the foreigners and some of our Chinese friends. It was really cozy, actually. The only thing we were missing was a fireplace! We listened to Christmas music while we chatted and snacked on the huge assortment of dessert items. Then we watched White Christmas. It's surprising to me how few of us had actually seen this classic Christmas movie before, though I'm not sure it was very much of a crowd pleaser in the end. At any rate, the night provided a temporary Christmas environment which was really welcomed and very well received.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Okay, so I have been pretty negligent in posting on my blog lately, but life has been hectic. So I'll start with the most important activity in the past two weeks: THANKSGIVING.

On the Thursday morning of Thanksgiving, us foreigners and some of our students gathered together at our football field to play (or learn, really) tag football. We had like 26 players and only a small portion of the field. We were only able to play for thirty minutes or so before we got kicked off the field by a P.E. class, but it was a lot of fun. No one scored, but I think it is safe to say that Derek, Brian and my team would have stomped Andrew, Jeremy, and Darla's team had we been given the opportunity to play longer.

After lunch the Lewis girls came over to my apartment so we could all cook and talk together. Actually, Rena cooked, the girls entertained themselves, and I talked. Then the boys joined us, and we filled my room with family - just like a typical Thanksgiving back home with a lot of socializing and cooking.

We decided to hold our Thanksgiving celebration at a hotel. We invited the entire Family so we probably had around forty or so people attend. We were able to find a couple turkeys which were shipped from Shanghai, I think, and then the local pizza place cooked them for us since they're the only place with an oven large enough to cook a turkey. We also had mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potato casserole, rolls, pies, and other favorites. We spent the entire evening eating, playing games and talking. The celebration lasted over three hours, but it was one of my favorite Thanksgivings yet - just because the Family here is so amazing. Many of the people who came I don't see very often because they go to a different school so it was awesome spending such a relaxing night together.

After nine everyone started leaving. We threw together an impromptu sleepover at my house, and watched movies late into the morning.


I think I have had or been to more sleepovers in the last month than I've ever been to before in my whole life! On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, my good friend Wind spent the night. Her sister teaches at my school, but Wind actually goes to the medical school. This is her last year so she doesn't have as many classes as some of the other students. So lately she's been staying over maybe once a week. I love it though!

Friday night after Thanksgiving Rena had invited three of her students to spend the night with them and asked if I wanted to come too. We made pizza which was so good. I love pizza! The three girls were really friendly. I think they were surprised by how crazy American girls are when they're having a sleepover - lots of dancing, singing, laughing, and telling funny stories. But they enjoyed themselves.


Saturday morning after the three Chinese girls had left, the rest of us were just hanging out and resting when Derek called me. Two students from the medical college needed to USE his bathtub!! We were ecstatic. We left the Lewis's house and headed towards my school. As we were waiting for the bus, I was thinking to myself how cool it would be if we happened to catch the same bus that those from the medical school were on as they were heading to our campus. As the first K-5 bus pulled up, I looked on and saw Darla's shining face! They were all there!! So we road to my campus together.

At my school, we only get hot water twice a day: once at night from 7 ish to 10 ish (it changes every day) and maybe in the morning around 6:30 (though we can never catch it in the morning). So Derek had been heating up water on the stove by the wok full to fill up the tub. He was able to get it lukewarm, but it was still a little chilly, and the apartment was kind of cold too. But no one cared!

The apartment quickly filled with Family. We talked and sang for awhile as we waited for everyone to arrive. Finally, we crowded outside the bathroom door. In a short while, we had a new brother and sister. It was such a fantastic day!


Sunday night Wind stayed with me again. We always have such good discussions when she's here. She's a very deep, kind person. I am learning so much from her. Anyway, I had class Monday morning, and after class (and lunch), the boys, Yvonne, Wind and I went shopping at the Korean Market - a really cool outdoor market nearer to the medical school. They sell EVERYTHING for really cheap, though they always up the prices of things when we come by. Usually, if we like something, we'll leave the store, tell our Chinese friends what we like, and they go back to the store and get the true price before we show our faces to pay for the item. So Wind was helping us shop for different things. I really wanted to buy a blanket/comforter type thing so that when it's cold in my apartment and I have friends over, we can all get cozy under a large blanket. While we were perusing, Alice (who had been in Wuhan since the previous Thursday to take an English test) called. She had just gotten back from Wuhan so we told her to meet up with us. We are with Alice so much throughout the week that it felt really weird not having her around for a few days. So she met up with us just as Wind was leaving, and she helped me by my awesomely HUGE comforter which is like a whole 'nother bed in and of itself!

After classes that night (and our weekly study), several of us gathered in my apartment to watch ER. (Alice, who is a medical student just bought the third season of ER so she just leaves it at my house and comes over to watch it periodically). . Afterwards, it was kind of late. Alice lives at the end of a long, dark, scary road that she has to walk because the buses don't run up towards her dormitory. So Brian and I decided to take her home. It was the first night in long time that it wasn't terribly cold so after we dropped Alice off, we decided to walk back instead of catching a bus. It took us over an hour to get back to our campus, but it was such a beautiful night for walking!


Tuesday I went to the Lewis's house to take a hot shower. I kept missing the time when I had hot water, and I couldn't muster the nerve to take a cold one so I just went over to the Lewis's to take advantage of their hot water heater. While I was there, Jaime texted us to tell us that it was Brad's birthday and that we could meet at a hotel to eat with him. It was just the foreigners that were invited, but several were unable to make it because they had class. It ended up being the Lewises, Hills, Derek, Brad, his friend, and me. It was nice because we seldom see Brad; he's so busy. We had a nice dinner, and then Derek and I headed home. We had invited Alice, Kevin, Janice, and some others over to have yet another ER watch party.


I've already mentioned that I don't see some of the Family very often because they go to a different school and meet on a different campus. I miss them so much so I've decided to start attending a Wednesday evening meeting at Andrew and Jaime's. Last week was my first time to go, but it was so good. The discussion was good, the company was good, and afterwards, I spent the night with Darla, which was really good because I don't see her as often as I would like to. Zoe went also and spent the night too. Zoe probably spends the most time with the boys and me of anyone. She's a sophomore at my school. Her English is good, and she's always asking questions which just means she's going to get better. When we first met her, she was pretty quiet, but now she's getting kind of mouthy, especially with Derek. It's really funny when a Chinese person talks trash.


For the past couple of weeks, the different departments at our school have been having English speech contests. The winners of those small competitions went on the the final contest which was held Friday night. I think it was Wednesday or Thursday that Eric, the guy who handles the English Department stuff, asked us if we would judge the contest. The school really hasn't asked us to do too much so we decided we would comply with their request. Brian left for Ningbo Wednesday (and won't return till today) so only Cindy, Derek and I went. Before the contest began, many students from the English Department (many of them OUR students) put on a show. There was dancing, singing, poetry, and the most hilarious little skit I have ever seen. We were hysterical. After the show, the contest began. There were nine contestants, and the three of us would have to ask a question, in turn, to the speakers after they gave their speeches. We weren't the only judges. There were probably ten of us in all, but the three of us were the only ones who asked questions. The speakers were really good. Two of Derek's crazy girls gave speeches. They did so well. The whole night lasted about three hours, but I had a surprisingly good time. Derek was asked to give an impromptu speech. He did well - much better than I would have done. That's the worse thing about going to any kind of function here; you are always asked to do something - either sing or give a speech or a toast or something else. I think I need to write a few speeches for different occasions and have a list of my top five favorite songs to sing so I'll be ready next time someone asks me to perform!

After the contest, we all came back to my apartment to watch, again, ER. Alice, Wind, Zoe, Antasia and Courtny spent the night. Early Saturday morning, Alice left to go to class. I can't imagine having classes on Saturday or Sunday, but these students have them on both days! I went to tutor after Alice left. Joyce, the woman whose daughter and daughter's friends I tutor, invited me into her apartment after we were finished with the English session (which is held in a different woman's apartment) and offered me dumplings and donkey meat for breakfast. I accepted both! The donkey meat wasn't bad at all. She then gave me a package of processed dog meat because she knew I wanted to try dog sometime. On the package is a picture of the cute little dog they killed so that I might eat it. It was weird. When I got home, I heated up the meat. It tasted similar to SPAM, only better. I think fresh dog meat would taste different. Wind tried to stop me from eating it. She thinks it's horrible to eat dog, but Zoe, who is terribly afraid of dogs and, really, all animals gladly tried it!


So last week when I was talking with Darla about how we need to do more things together, it struck me that we should play this game called Cops and Robbers. Basically, it's like this: there are two teams - one made up of robbers and one made up of cops. You choose one spot in the city to begin the game and one spot to end it. The robbers take off running (because they can only run or walk) from the beginning spot and try to reach the end spot before the cops (who leave 10 minutes after the robbers leave) can catch them. The cops can use public transportation or anything that will help them move more quickly than the robbers (in the States the cops can use their own cars, but we don't have that luxury here). If a cop touches a robber, the robber becomes a cop and begins looking for the other robbers.

We had 26 people playing. We began at the medical school (at the Hill's apartment) and ended at McDonalds which was about two miles away. The robbers had to stay along this little waterway that we have in town. I was a cop so after we waited our ten minutes to give the robbers a head start, the thirteen of us cops set off. We strategized a bit during those ten minutes so each of knew where we should go. The idea was to take the bus ahead of where the robbers could be and then cut back trying to catch them before they reached McDonalds. Jeremy, Andrew and I were going to go all the way to McDonalds and cut back from there. As we were on the bus, though, Jeremy spotted Jaime, Christence, and a Chinese girl whose name I don't know running along the water way. So when the bus stopped, I jumped off it and took off running towards them. I was coming in close when Jaime saw me and yelled, "RUN!" The three took off running. I got Christence and then followed Jamie and the other girl into this tented area. Jaime tried sneaking into a tent, but I saw her before she disappeared and went tumbling into the tent with her. I think we really surprised the people on the inside of the tent!

After I got all three of these ladies, I jumped back on the bus and went to McDonalds. The game lasted about an hour and a half. The cops caught all the robbers but one - David - who runs as fast as lightning. It was so much fun. Darla summed it up: It was nice that for once people actually had a good reason to stare at us. I think we concerned some people because we were running through the city and looking madly around us for any sight of the others. Next time we play we will use less cops and make the destination more open. It really was too difficult for the robbers to get past the cops.


That night (Saturday) Derek, Yvonne, Alice and I went over to Andrew and Jaime's to eat pizza and play this cool game called Settlers of Catan. I was really tired so I didn't play, but I did watch. The game lasted until really late. Afterwards, the girls all went upstairs to spend the night at Darla's. We watched a chick flick, then sang some GOOD songs, and went to bed. The sleeping arrangements were all worked out fine, but somehow in my bed we ended up with four people - there were only supposed to be two. In fact, the bed probably isn't much bigger, if at all, than a single bed. Before long Mollie left the bed because it was too crowded, and it ended up just being Janice, Courtny and me. It was still a tight squeeze, but I stayed plenty warm!


In the morning, several of us girls headed back to my apartment for meeting. We had a nice gathering, and a large group for lunch. Derek was seriously outnumbered. For lunch, he was the only guy, and there were, like, 15 girls. Although, I'm sure he didn't mind!

After lunch Alice, Derek and I just hung out in my apartment. All afternoon Alice and I watched ER episodes and just rested. In the evening, Alice had class, and Derek and I felt like sluggish losers since we hadn't done anything all day so we decided to go to Andrew and Jaime's to play Settlers of Catan again. Cristence, who is a foreign teacher in Wuhan, has spent the entire weekend with them, and she's leaving today. So it was fun last night to spend some more time with her and hear how things are going in Wuhan.


So I really wanted/needed a shower, but when we got home last night, I already missed it! Arrggg... I just went to bed. This morning I got up a little early, and as I was washing my face, I realized the hot water was on!! Oh, happy day! So I took a steaming hot shower this morning which is maybe only the second time since I've been here that I've caught the hot water in the morning.

In class today (actually in my apartment) we watched The Princess Bride, one of my all time favorite movies. Now Derek is showing it to his class. It is a classic, afterall...

Hmm... I'm sure there are a billion things I've forgotten to write about, but maybe I'll think of them later...