Monday, November 4, 2013


My trip was great, my friend was a fabulous host. For a couple days we went down to this island called Jeju where he had a good friend, and this island was amazing. The air was so fresh, the water so clear, the beaches so beautiful and and the sand so nice. What I'm basically saying is, I want to move to this wonderful island and spend the rest of my life. Yes, it was that great.

I could bore you with details of my trip, but instead I will go over some of the cultural aspects of it, in my opinion I found it so completely different from China, and actually slightly more similar to American culture, but that's coming from Chinese perspective, not American perspective ;)

As I begin my analysis, I have a feeling it won't be completely satisfactory for a couple reasons. One, I'm going to compare it to Chinese as well as American culture, and I was only there for a week, which is really just a toe in the ocean of culture.

First thing, age, is really important in Korean culture. About a two/three year age gap can make all the difference, about whether you can befriend this person or not, and what words you will use when speaking to them. In China, we don't really have that. Age is still more important that America, but not to the extent of Korea. In China, I should respect my elder's, and I shouldn't date an older guy, I should be married before I turn 30, but otherwise age is not so big.

Politeness. America has a pretty polite culture, not to the extent, of perhaps, England. But in America, a lot of people use the word “sorry” when you bump into someone, or “excuse me” when trying to get by, and of course we ALWAYS say “thank you”. Korea is also a very polite culture, especially with the word “thank you”! If I had been coming from America, I could have gotten that one down fine, but in China we don't have these “polite words.” So, Chinese may come across as rude, but the thought is (unless your talking to a superior), you don't really need them. If my friend has something I can say “Give it to me” and its not considered rude. If I'm at a store and someone hands something to me, I don't need to say thanks, in fact I can just grunt and its acceptable! But I'm pretty nice, I usually send a smile. Anyways, this drove my friend crazy. He kept asking me, “Why aren't you saying thank you?!” And he would have to whisper it in my ear, to remind me if someone was doing something especially nice. Hopefully any lapses on politeness were forgiven, since I am a foreigner.

Bowing. In Korea you bow. In China you don't. Maybe for martial arts, but I don't know anything about that. Again, age can come into this. You don't wave at someone older, but you can wave at your friends. Also, when I was introduced to guys (closer to my age), they would shake my hands and we would keep shaking until the greetings were over. I can't say much about this, but I noticed it with others to. So the hand shake is different than America, but in China we don't ever shake hands.

I think for me one of the nicest things was not getting stared at, and people talking to me like I might know the language. Of course I don't, I couldn't even remember “thank you”, but I know the language in China and everyone always assumes I don't, and it gets tiresome. I think this just reflects how Korea has been opened to foreigners way longer than China has.

Do I recommend going to Korea? Yes, I do, it is a wonderful country. What if you don't know Korean? I can't say much on this, since my friend is Korean, so pretty much babysat me all week, but my experience was not a ton of people speak English. At the shopping places that many people go, they have translators and people willing to give directions (wearing red clothes) to any who need, and at the airport many people speak English and they have translators too. But I think if you go, you just want to make sure your a little prepared before hand, with a map, your hotel written out (in the Korean language-you could probably print it) and things like that. Korea is wonderful, go.

Friday, October 18, 2013

When Follow Through is Too Much

Most people would consider follow-through and dedication a good trait to have and I have them in abundance. So, most people would consider me perfect, right? Well, as close as I may be, it is completely wrong. When I commit to something, I am committed 120%, for better or for worse. When I say something, no matter how wrong it is I will stick to my guns until I have everyone convinced. When I do something, I will follow it through, no matter what direction it takes, until it is too late. Let me share a little story.

My story needs a foundation, that foundation is anger problems. I don't need to go into details, all you need to know is I had them. I don't think I have them any more, but every now and then a bit of that old anger will emerge, thankfully it gets better and better, not the anger, but the lack of anger. Living in a country that is not your own, will bring out your anger whether you have a history of anger problems or not. My anger just happens to show a little more than others, probably because of this history. Again, I should say it is not as bad as it once was.

In the city that I live I look different, than the Chinese people. No big deal, usually, but it means I have people stare and shout “HELLO!” in my face as I walk around doing my own business. For the most part, I try and have grace and go on with my life.

Yesterday evening, traffic was bad, the bus was crowded and I was slightly annoyed. When I got to my stop, I had traffic literally stopped because a taxi driver and his passenger were staring at me. Normally I would move on, but this time, out of no where and totally uncontrollably and with a mind of its own my right arm lifted up and my fist slammed the top of the taxi, then I walked around it.

The taxi driver got out of his taxi and started yelling at me, so I made some rude gestures and yelled back, “Why the hell are you staring at me!” As this was going on, in my mind I knew two things. First, I knew I shouldn't have hit his car, he was just looking at me because I'm beautiful. Second, I knew if he walked over to me I would follow through with my actions even if that meant a fistfight. I waited, part of me a little concerned at what I had done and what I might do, part of me hoping I could show this staring man what a pretty girl is made of, in a not so nice way.

It ended with him getting back in his car and me walking away. Major mistake avoided, minor mistake too late to fix. What will happen next time you ask? Hopefully next time I won't hit the taxi, but if I do, all I know is this follow-through problem is not going to be fixed any time soon.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Emergencies and Accidents

Yesterday I sat here staring at my screen wondering what to write, today I come with stories.

Our house is unintentionally becoming a party house, not like crazy black out party nights, but a place where people are coming to connect. And its great to be at the center of it, or at least host it. Living in another country as a single person can be hard, while its still possible to be friends with married people, its just a different lifestyle. Oddly, right now in my city there are a bunch of single people and we have now thrown our second "party" with great success. The singles come flocking! (Leaving the awkward Single 'Meet and Greet' behind.)

Last night was a bonfire, I was expecting rain or police and neither came, for that I'm grateful. When we went out I thought our fire would last an hour if we were lucky, it went a solid two hours and we managed to keep it up for the third. By then some of us were getting cold so we invited people into our house if they wanted to continue the 'party' (which for me meant drinking coffee and trying not to all asleep in conversation). Again, another pleasant surprise, people like us! About half came into our house-about 12 people.

We crammed into the elevator, no beeping occurred, the doors shut, one floor up and DROP! After some screaming and mild profanity we all laughed. Twelve people and a dog crammed into an elevator during holiday with no cell service. Luckily, other's did actually have cell service and we were able to get ahold of some of the people who left and they got us help. We were stuck for almost half an hour, with a dog who had terrible gas. If any of us had died, it would have been for lack of oxygen. For 12 people crammed in an elevator with little breathable air we all looked happy, laughing and smiling. I can't post the video (too many people to get permission from), but someone did take a video and we all look like we are having the time of our lives! Just part of living in China.

That was the emergency, today the accident occurred, this one a little less funny. My dog jumped, snagging his nail and it ripped off. While it heals it will be painful to sit through because, even though he may be pug, he is far from sedentary and I wont be able to take him running for probably a couple weeks.

Living abroad when emergencies and accidents occur what do you do? Hope for the best and laugh at the rest.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Having A Dog

As I'm sure all my readers know by now, I have a dog, I bought him about a year ago. In fact right around Halloween, I gave up my costume money for my dog. When I bought him I promised myself so many things. I promised myself I would never compare having a dog to being a parent. That I would never let him get away with things. That he would always just be a dog. Well, less than a year later and I have broken all of those promises I made to myself.

I should have known I was going to break all these promises immediately, but denial is a sweet nectar to our guilt. Just a couple days after getting Otis, my dog, I was at a friends house and we were eating dinner. I had Otis on my lap while I ate. And one of my friends turned to me and said, "Oh! Your that kind of dog owner!" I tried to deny it, explain it away, no he has a lot of energy right now, he's not potty trained yet, I don't have a leash.... excuse ... excuse ... excuse. I felt the truth of the statement, but I kept telling myself, he is JUST a dog, I am master. I own him.

The first promise to slowly start eroding away was my promise to not compare owning a dog to parenthood, but its hard when all the mother's around me compared my dog to their kids. I promise, I didn't start it! Perhaps, it was a way I could connect with friends, my friends who are married with kids while I am single with dog. (Sounds like the beginning to a sad story.)

So, as all my peers started to call me Otis's mother so did I. I will confess it was painful, but liberating. I will influence this creature's habits from now on out! But if you take this first step, you can never let him be JUST a dog again. Which began my downfall into letting him behave very un-dog-like.

At first this wasn't a problem because he had some other dogs in the house, but when they left he began some curious habits. First, when I would sit down to eat at the dinner table he would jump on the chair next to me and sit there too. Step one, thinks he's human. After doing this for awhile I started to find he had jumped on the table, step two; he knows he's not human, so what is he-cat?

I'm happy to say I killed that habit (after a looong time), but I couldn't bring myself to tell him no to jumping on chairs-it was so cute! Which is where my final downfall lay, letting him get away with things.

I tried to tell myself that I had to be stern, if you want your dog (or child) to create good habits, you have to be consistent and I was always one of those single people who couldn't believe it when parents weren't consistent with their kids. Now, I understand. Sometimes,

I catch Otis chewing on pillows and I look away and think "Yes! A moment to myself!" Sometimes he jumps on the couch (which he is technically not allowed to do) and I think "How cute!"

My conclusion is this; I am a terrible parent, but the same as any other. I am completely biased towards my creature and think all others suck. Mess with my stuff (dog/child), you mess with me, angry mama bear.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What does Riding the Bus and Street Dancing Have in Common?

I begin this blog with a question; what does riding the bus and street dancing have in common? If you look at specifically China, not much. Or specifically America, the same answer. But if you decide to switch the question to what does riding the bus in America and street dancing in China have in common? A whole lot. Or the other question; what does street dancing in America and riding the bus in China have in common? Way too much.

Riding the bus in America, is a fairly comfortable, if not sometimes long event. We get on, we find our seat, we have our space, we observe people and sometimes we may chat with someone else. But usually we find our own thing to do and we avoid eye contact, unless a friend is with us. China's street dancing is surprisingly similar.

We go to a large square or park where there are many other people we don't know. You find your space, not touching any other person, you observe and follow. Maybe if we are feeling open or bold we will chat with our neighbor, or if we have been going for awhile we will at the very least nod at the people we know. While this is the norm, I will say, when I went I broke all the social conventions. And let's just say we had quite the crowd.

Let's move onto the other comparison we are making. Now American street dancing can look many different ways, it could be awesome break dancing in your little square with a big crown around you and I wish that's how it was on the bus, but I'm thinking of something different. I'm thinking more club style and before you say that doesn't happen on the streets I would like to disagree; have yous seen the new footloose? Yes well there is bumping and grinding out in public, and the movies never lie. The point I'm trying to make is street dancing in America, or if you must make me say it, club dancing in America is eerily similar to riding a bus in China...its scary!

I first noticed this experience two years ago, when I moved here. I haven't written about it because I simply didn't know how to, but this analogy gave me a good opening. Now, riding the bus is not always so intense, only mostly. When the buses are over crowded and you are slipping by every single person, body rubbing against body. This might be sexy, if the people were mostly clean, perhaps your own age and if there was something other than the Chinese radio station playing.

In America, I didn't go clubbing much, the idea of shaking my booty for a stranger didn't appeal (for some reason), but now after living here I feel all clubbed out. I have never grinded on people so much in my life (by accident of course), been grinded on (hopefully by accident), given and been given lap dances like this in my life (which happens when the chairs face the aisles of the bus and it is so crowded you are pretty much sitting in that person's lap).

I know there may be quite the diversity of ages reading this and I hope it doesn't scare you, while for those who understand, hopefully this makes you laugh. But this is my almost daily experience, not street dancing, but riding the bus, which as you can see is much scarier than street dancing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Post to Bring You Up To Date

Sorry for not writing for so long, but after living here for two years something terrible has happened... life has become normal.

The last two or three months have been filled with thoughts of "I should write, but..." I have gone out, I've seen things, I've lived life, I've met people, I've had conversations (English and Chinese I'm proud to say), but it now takes a lot of imagination for me to write something that I think will interest people. My mind has moved forward, to doing other things and my blog about China has been left in the dust. Having said that I will try to continue to write semi-consistently for the next 6 months. Why for 6 months? Because that is how much longer I have in China, then I move back to the States to begin an even scarier journey...(imagine scary music playing) University! Full-time! The horror! The expense! I can't talk about it too much or I might scare myself away from it.

I will give you an update to what has happened in the last few months, then hopefully my future blogs will be more relevant to now time or not relevant at all, but at lest humorous and perhaps enlightening to my life.

Last Spring I went home for 6 weeks, during that time my sister got engaged. When I returned to China, life was slow, not much going on, so I tried to work as much as I could (which unfortunately didn't happen as much as I would have liked) cuz I then had to go back to the States to attend a wedding. During my couple months back home in China I got sick, I literally lost my voice for 2 weeks. Crazy.

At the end of July I started my journey back to Seattle. It took me about 3 days to make it to there. An hour bus to the train station, 5 hours delay, a 22 or 23 hour ride (on a hard seat nonetheless), an hour bus ride to my hostel and overnight at the hostel and a 12 hour flight to Seattle, where I was greeted by my beautiful family.

I was only in Seattle for a week, the first two days were spent on mostly dealing with my visa stuff (had to apply for a new visa before going back to China), the next couple days after that, seeing a couple friends, the next couple days dealing with wedding stuff (which was beautiful by the way) and the last few days was spent with family. I then flew back to China with a friend.

My friend and I spent two busy, busy, busy days in Beijing, ran to the train station (made it with only a few minutes to spare), went to Xi'an (stayed with one of my friends there) for a few days, then flew to Xining (my current city) for a week. The day after my friend left, one of my Xi'an friends came and visited for a week. After she left two new roommates moved in, the following week my part-time online school started up again. And my weeks since then have been full of helping some things other people already have going, doing school and taking care of dogs (did I mention I was taking care of 3 dogs for 3 weeks? No I thought I forgot that ;) But now its me and Otis, two cool new roommates and an exciting 6 months to look forward to.

Life has been full and busy, but manageable and fun. I'm excited (and scared shitless-excuse my french) for my move back to America, but I am so happy to have 6
months left in China. Hopefully my last 6 months of blog
posts will bring you plenty of enjoyment as well.                            Above a pic of my two friends that visited

My new haircut (I'm trying to bring ya up to date):

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Clash of Two Cultures

When you live in a culture that is not your own you are unnaturally bringing two cultures together. When I say unnaturally, I mean it feels odd. It seems off, it is weird for your home culture, it is weird for your host culture. But it is also natural, I mean natural in that it naturally happens, you usually can't help it.

One of the most obvious ways it happens is in language. You learn a word for something new and you like the sound of it, so you throw it in to your day to day life. Other ways you bring together cultures can be in your eating habits, in the way you dress, and in the way you organize life. The longer you live in another culture the more "You know you live in (insert place) when...(blah blah blah) happens."

Recently I went home and while I was home my sister, Nadia, bought me a WSU lanyard to represent my school and to compete against Nicole (she goes to UW-the schools are rivals). I don't know how you wear lanyards, but I noticed the cool thing to do in Seattle was to tuck the key part in your pocket and let the lanyard hang free to show your allegiance to whatever (at least I'm assuming that's why you do it). So, being part of the cool crowd myself, that's what I did. And I tried to bring that practice to China. I had quite a few instances where my students or even strangers would come up to me and tell me something was hanging out of my pocket. The first couple times I tried to explain "Oh no, I do it because it looks good." Well, after so many times of blank looks and confusion, its just not worth it and you tuck it in for the time being.

I recently realized why some things in cultures are like water and oil-they don't mix. Once, while I was running for the bus my lanyard snagged on a bush and I almost missed the bus by running back to get it. That was the warning, but enlightenment came when I tried to get off the bus. First, the bus slams on the breaks, so four people fall on me. Then I fight my way through the crowd to get off, cuz in China the bus don't wait for no one. Well, I successfully slide through the crown and am about to hop off the bus when I notice my lanyard has attached itself to a high school girl's backpack.

So I go back and try to pull it off, but its stuck. The driver is tired of waiting for me, so he starts to shut the doors, but I stick out one foot and hold it open and am still pulling on the girls backpack with my lanyard, while saying some embarrassing English words. Finally, I lose patience and let the stress get to me and I pull hard and my lanyard comes lose, but the bus is moving now, no time to wait. So, I jump off the moving bus and the doors slam shut behind me and I look at my lanyard, I had pulled the poor girl's zipper of her backpack.

Lesson learned, sometimes cultures don't mix.