Wednesday, 23 December 2009

All I Want For Christmas Is MONKEYS!

Tonight is the night. Very very soon, in fact.

For my lunch break I am going to go back to my apartment and made sure my last few things are package and my clean dishes are put away.

My last class before my short Christmas break starts at 2:25 and ends at 3:20. We will be going over the monthly test and creating our own modern version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". As soon as the clock reaches 3:20 I am packing up office stuff, grabbing my suitcase and Kelly and I are grabbing a cab to the Maglev.

Our plane leaves at 6pm. The flight should be around 3 hours. Then...SANYA.

I've looked up how to say the name of the place we are staying in Chinese, I looked up about how much the Taxi ride from the airport should be, I've gotten advice from coworkers about what to do and eat...

I've also looked at the weather...Supposed to be up to 79 degrees the next three days...HEAVEN. So far our plan is to spend the first day being lazy bums on the beach or pool side. I've packed "The Southern Vampire" series for a little brain candy vacation reading. Day two, (aka Christmas) we are thinking of doing the touristy stuff, the focus of which is probably going to be "Monkey Island" which is exactly what it sounds like: an island full of monkeys. Day three will be a bit more lazying about before our flight back. Altogether far too short of a vacation, but hopefully an enjoyable one.

My camera is still broken (flash not working) but I think it will be fine in normally light and sunshine which I am hoping to get a lot of in Sanya. I shall try to post something good when I get back.

Happy holidays to everyone!

I send love!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Happy Fruit, Sleeping Worm and Encyclopedia?

In my 11th grade class we are moving forward with creative writing. I decided to have them go over traditional fairy tale stories and then re-write them with a little creativity (ala The True Story of The Big Bad Wolf).

But just talking about some of these stories I have found some differences in the way the stories are told or called. One of my favorites is the different names for the 7 Dwarves from Snow White. I asked my students what they were called in Chinese.

The most normal sounding one was KaiXingGuo, or "Happy Fruit" for Happy.
Instead of Grumpy the have AiShengQi or "Angry".
Doc is given the slightly grander name of WanShiTong or "Encyclopedia".
Bashful's name is somewhat similar...HaiXiuGui or "Blush Ghost" (I think ghost here just means that he blushes a lot, like an Alcohol Ghost is someone that drinks a lot).
Sleepy is KeShuiChong or "Sleeping Worm".
Sneezy has the slightly more viscous name BiTiJing or "Runny Nose".
The last is by far my favorite...and I'm not even sure if it's the same type of character. In stead of Dopey they have DaHuZi which means....*drumroll please* "Big Mustache".

I find this especially funny because in the famous Disney version...Dopey is the only one WITHOUT facial hair.

Anyway, thought you all might enjoy that. Here are a couple more I have heard:

Wolves Are Coming!= The Boy Who Cried Wolf
Little Red Hat= Little Red Riding Hood
Bean Princess= The Princess and The Pea

Time for class now, gotta run.

Much love,

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Stephanie in Shanghai...In Chinese!

This was my homework I did for my first class. I am so happy to be practicing Chinese in a structured environment again, I just want to show it off. I don't feel like translating it though. :-P













I don't think it's any secret that my nick-name Sproffee comes from the combination of Sprite and Coffee. I even created a new Chinese name for myself that combines the first character from the Chinese word for Sprite (XueBi) with the last character that forms the Chinese name for Coffee (KaFei). XueFei. While I was not the creator of either the combined drink or the catchy name for it, I somehow ended up being pegged with the nickname that now even the President of Drew University and many of my Chinese friends call me by.

On a somewhat related and equally bizarre note, I saw a student making his own creation in the library today. I was making copies of a handout for class when I saw one of my 12th grade students pouring a packet of instant oatmeal into a mug. I didn't think anything of it until he opened a packet of instant coffee and dumped it into the same cup. Intrigued I asked him what the heck he was doing and if the combination tasted even somewhat good. His response was rational and made a lot of sense.

"It does taste good, because it tastes like coffee and coffee tastes good. But if you only drink coffee, it doesn't fill you up. This tastes good and afterwards I feel full."

Points to you, Sir. I am actually considering making this myself sometime. Right now the most creative I get is adding a scoop of hot chocolate mix to my coffee in the morning to make a poor man's mocha.

Hooray for culinary adventures?


Saturday, 12 December 2009

Clever girl...

In class we are discussing descriptive writing. I showed my students a picture of my parents cabin and had them describe it. After getting them to say all the usual things (height, color, shape, etc), I tried to get them to think beyond the norm and describe the picture using feelings, similes and imagination. I prompted them with questions like "If you were at this house, what do you think you would hear?"

This happened in class D.

Me: If you were standing here and looking forward, what do you think you would see?

Angela (student): *looks at the picture, then looks at me* A camera.

I nearly tripped I was laughing so hard.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Being Productive

The past few days have been pretty productive.

This picture is from Monday night. It was June's birthday so we went out and had Indian food for dinner. On the left is XuPing (or Shopping), Lotus with her adorable hyperactive son Jason, Me, birthday girl June, Ula and Ned (who looks worried for some reason...)

Yesterday I finally gave up trying to fix my internet for myself (or waiting for divine intervention) and reported that it wasn't working to the school. Good thing. Turns out the problem wasn't my computer or my modem but something with the cable lines. They reset them and now I have internet in my apartment again!

Since I was already talking to the school about repairs I finally decided the light in my bathroom was calling it quits. (It was taking about about 2 minutes to turn on...if ever. Showering in the dark is rather weird). The repair man replaced it and now I can see my teeth when I brush! Whoo!

Lastly and most importantly, I finally got off my lazy butt and went to sign up for Chinese lessons. I had used about ever excuse ever. It's raining, I have dinner plans, I'm tired, there is a school meeting, I have a wine tasting, I gotta do lesson plans....etc. Stephanie and Becky told me where it was and I had a little interview with one of the organizers. She quizzed me in Chinese to see what my level was (Sample question: How do Chinese people celebrate the mid-autumn festival?) I asked if there was a class I could join but it turns out there is really only one other person at the school at my level and he won't be back for more lessons until after Chinese new year. Since I want to brush up my skills before mi madre comes to visit, I signed up for private lessons for the next month. It was pretty pricey, but Becky says it's a good school, it's convenient (literally just down the street) and part of my thinking is that I'll want to work extra hard so it will be worth the price. Wish me luck

I forget if I mentioned in my blog already or not, but Kelly and I are going to Sanya for Christmas break. We already got our plane tickets and are going to reserve our hostel tonight. Sanya is on Hainan island and is supposed to be the Hawaii of China. I am looking forward to a little warmth!

The only thing stopping me from being super productive lately is It's addicting and I need to stop reading it.

That's all for now.

Much love,

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


I have been very busy at work and the internet hasn't worked in my apartment for about a week...that makes it incredible hard to post.

So let me give you all a quick update on the last week or so.

-My bike got stolen. I am thoroughly crushed. Friday night I had dinner with Lotus and then went shopping. By the time I went outside it was gone. I had it locked and right by the entrance like I always do. This means someone either cut through my lock or picked it up and walked away. Either way, no one stopped them and I am SOL with no bike. RIP The Lime.

-I lost my favorite hat. In a continuing streak of bad luck, I left my favorite hat (my grey irish cap/newspaper hat) in a cab on Saturday night. I loved that hat and it had a lot of good memories.

-Not all in the world is sad. Friday night I got a comforter after being freezing cold all last winter. It is super warm and comfy and was pretty cheap.

-Saturday was a surprise party for Chris, that Becky organized in an Irish pub. It was a lot of fun.  I got myself, the other Stephanie, Ned and Michelle to all chip in to get him an acoustic guitar (I've been giving him lessons). On Saturday Michelle and I went to jingling lu and got the guitar, an electric tuner, a new set of strings, a bunch of picks, a soft case and a capo all for the price we wanted. Chris seemed to really like it.

-I went to an Improv lab last week and they really liked me. I might be asked to join the performing group and the woman running the lab asked me if I would be interesting in running a lab myself in the future. I wish I could find something medieval here to do in Shanghai, but it was really nice to find my second favorite activity from college: improv!

-I have been baking like crazy. My new routine is to wash my dishes Sunday night while baking something, and then bringing whatever it is in for my coworkers on Monday. I've made three kinds of cookies, blueberry muffins and chocolate cupcakes so far. Yum!

-Last night I played Christmas music and decorated my apartment. My tree looks very jolly.

I suppose that's about it for now.

Much love,

Sunday, 22 November 2009

My Worst Nightmare

Ok. Maybe "worst nightmare" is a bit overly dramatic, but something has happened that I have been worried about for years now.

I think it is pretty common knowledge that bikes are EVERYWHERE in China. Pedal bikes, electric bikes, bikes with carts...they are all over the place. Outside of big stores and shopping areas there are usually rows and rows of bikes in the parking lots. The Carrefour where I go shopping is no different.
(note: this is not a picture of the Carrefour parking lot, it's just to give you an idea of what I mean.)

The bikes often are not attached to bike racks but rather have wheel locks. They are also often crowded together cheek by jowl (or pedal to pedal I suppose). I don't know if it's just me, but for years this bike organization has always looked forebodingly similar to this:

This Saturday I left Carrefour with my purse and two bags filled with groceries in hand and tried to squeeze my bike out from between two others.

And it happened.

Luckily, I only knocked over 5 bikes. The 6th in line shuddered dangerously but held it's ground. Unluckily, one of the bikes was a motor bike with an alarm the immediately started blaring it's protest. Further unluckily, I was right by the entrance so I had a crowd. I quickly righted all of the bikes, jammed my groceries in my basket and pedaled out of there as fast as I could.

It could have been worse. Not even ten minutes later as I was turning the corner on my street, I passed a man looking dejectedly at no less than 9 domino-ed bikes. I think it was the universe's way of telling me not to worry about it too much.

Much love,

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake

So last night I went to dinner at Lucy's apartment. Since I have been using my toaster oven EVERYDAY I of course knew I had to bake something. While hanging out at Bed last weekend, Audrey excitedly asked me if I knew how to make pumpkin cheesecake. Since I knew Audrey was going to be at dinner too and I have an uncontrollable need to please people (and cuz it sounded yummy) I decided to make pumpkin cheesecake.

I found THIS recipe online, which sounded easy enough. The only problem is that I couldn't find canned pumpkin at either Carrefour or the imported food store. So I bought a small pumpkin and figured "Hey! How hard could it be to make pumpkin puree?"

It actually wasn't too bad, just time consuming. First I cut it in half and scooped out the yucks. (I went through the extra effort to pick out the seeds to make toasted pumpkin seeds but I got distracted by a friend and they ended up burning. :-( )
Next I brushed a little butter on the flesh, covered each half with foil and put them in my oven for about an hour.
After that I scooped out the now tender pumpkin meat. A little time in a blender (that I borrowed from Chris and Becky) and I was looking at fresh pumpkin puree!
After that I just followed the recipe (although I used a pre-made graham cracker crust since I already had one). And I ended up with a pretty tasty fall themed cheesecake.
Lucy and Audrey (and Audrey's boyfriend and Lucy's roommate) LOVED it. I think it tasted extra good with a cup of coffee.


P.S. When did my China blog turn into a cooking and crafting diary?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

My Poetic Students

I often share when my students make funny mistakes in English, or do things that make me laugh. Recently, however, we have been talking about rhetorical devices (like metaphors and similes) as well as descriptive writing. Some of my students have written things that I really like. I thought I would share a few.

"Drowsiness is such a quiet killer that murders our time"
(I really liked this one, probably because I've been sleepy lately and it makes it so hard for me to concentrate.)Life

"Life is the early bus,
We always keep missing.
Life is the traffic jam,
We never stop waiting."

"The little ship, even now seemed to be as fragile as a piece of glass, steadily floating on the tranquil horizon."

"His hair is twisted and as complicated as IB math higher level."

"I used to hide myself from everybody
Like a shadow cast on the ground
Always behind somebody."

"It's the day of autumn
Leaves are so tired that they fall to sleep on the ground."

"Looking at the lake under the sun shine,
You will find that,
It is glittering,
As if it was made of thousands of diamonds."

That's all for now. I think I might actually get all my correcting done today just in time to correct my big stack o' midterms I'll be getting tomorrow. Whoo...


Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Mock Admissions

This picture amuses me. During last Friday's meeting we did a mini mock admissions. It is supposed to be a good example to show us teachers the kinds of things that colleges are looking for, and to read some sample recommendation letters since a lot of them are writing them now.

Each teacher had to read one of the three fake applications for a college. Personal essay, transcript, recommendations...everything. Then we discussed them as a group and voted to admit one, wait list another and reject the third. I am proud of my group since we wanted our guy to get in (he wrote a really good personal essay) and he was the one the whole meeting voted to admit.

In this picture you can see the notes we collected for each of the three candidates on the board, listed by their last name (Gates, Leavitt and Wilson). I was in the group that read Gate's application so when the time came to write notes on the board, I volunteered like the goody-two-shoes I am. When I noticed someone in the back was taking pictures, I made a goofy face at them and then went back to what I was doing.

June sent this picture to me yesterday. Of course the camera woman happened to catch my silly face moment. BAH!


Monday, 9 November 2009

Festival, Film and Fun!

So this past Saturday I had two big things planned. One was the first ever Cuisine Festival and the second was meeting Lucy's Swiss boyfriend Andreas with some other friends for drinks. My day ended up being quite different from what I expected.

I left my apartment around 9am and stopped for a breakfast on the run at The Coffee Beanery. I met up with Lotus, her son (Jason), and her mother. We grabbed a cab and headed to the Cuisine Festival. We wanted to get there early so we could see everything. I thought for sure I would be there for a while. We arrived at 10:30 and I left at 1:30. It was rather a disappointment.

As soon as we arrived I bought pierogi because I was just so excited to see them in Shanghai. They were ok. Jason was funny and went and played on the bouncy house in the kids area and then ran up to hug HaiBao (the Shanghai Expo mascot which is freakin' EVERYWHERE).
I planned to take pictures of everything I tried but that fell through pretty quickly. The only thing I did take a picture of that I ate was this cupcake. Which was tasty.
I was mostly just dissapointed at how small the festival was. I did three trips around seeing every booth. The day wasn't a total waste. There was some interesting things to see like these terracotta warriors made of chocolate.
I also made a friend. I was sitting down and enjoying roast beef, mashed potatoes and a corona when another foreigner came up and asked if she could sit next to me. Her name is Bonnie and she comes from a large family in Alabama. Her husband is a pilot for a Chinese airline and she sells baked goods. We chatted for a while, then went and got gelatto and chatted some more. We exchanged info and I hope to meet up with her again. She was a lot of fun and we talked about random stuff like juggling and a puppets. We also laughed at the clowns.
After I felt like I had seen everything I wanted to see there, I left. I wasn't planning on getting together with Lucy et al until 9:30pm. That gave me a lot of time to kill. First I found a bench and read the City Weekend magazine I picked up at the festival from cover to cover. Then I just started walking down Nanjing Road. I ended up at a shopping center that had a movie theater. I figured, why not? I haven't been to a movie theater in China in a very long time and never have I negotiated one by myself.

I read the signs (which were all in Chinese), and ordered my ticket (in Chinese) and went and saw "This Is It" (in English...I have my limits. I did pay attention to the Chinese subtitles though). It was the only option they had that day in English. I was the only laowai in the theater which got me a few stares. Ah well. The movie was ok. Interesting enough. I thought it was funny that a lot of the people in the audience would clap after every song as though Michael Jackson was actually there performing. The girl sitting next to me got really into it and cried for the last 15 minutes or so.

After the movie I headed back out and walked some more. I ended up in People's Square. I figured I would sit and people watch. I took out my journal, planning on maybe writing something but instead ended up sketching (which I haven't done in a really long time). I ended up getting a lot of attention. It was really weird. I was just sitting on a bench sketching and trying to look as non-interesting as possible. A few people took pictures of me or what I was drawing, or sat half an inch away from me on the bench and stared at what I was doing. It's not even that good! What do you think?
I decided to get myself a little something quick to eat before drinking. I didn't want KFC, Starbucks, McDonald's, Subway or Pizza Hut...all popular choices on Nanjing Road. I walked down a small alley and found some places selling Chinese snacks. I got some shengqianbao (fried meat dumplings...this time with crab meat and pork), which was boiling hot when it arrived at my table and burnt the crap out of my tongue and lips but was totally worth it because it was so gosh darn tasty.

I walked a bit closer to the club we were going to meet at but after all of my procrastinating it was still early. Lucky for me I always have something to keep me occupied. I am currently reading "Son of a Witch" (the sequel to "Wicked"). I sat on a bench and read for a bit. I even waited a little bit after the appointed meeting time. I was still the first one there. Oh well.

Lucy and Andreas were the first to show up after me, followed by JJ, then Kevin and Peter and lastly Audrey and her new boyfriend Ryan (who is from Maine! I was surprised to meet a Maine-r).

We ended up staying for 4 hours. It was really a good time. Good conversation, good drinks (I had the Brendetta, a fruity rum drink). We were at Bed, a club I had been to once before. Instead of couches or chairs, Bed has...well...beds. Sorta. They are large flat cushioned platforms with a bunch of pillows. Because my flash is broken, like I mentioned before, I can't take pictures at night. But here is a picture from the last time I was at Bed just to show you what I mean:
Again, this picture isn't from this Saturday, but oddly enough this is in the same "bed" that we sat in this weekend. It was a good group of people to hang out with. We sang and talked and joked and laughed. I interviewed Andreas (mostly jokingly) to make sure he was good enough for Lucy. I think he passed. Here is an excerpt from our conversation:

Me: What is your favorite thing about Lucy?
Andreas: Ask me what my least favorite thing about her is.
Me: Ok...What is your least favorite thing about Lucy?
Andreas: She doesn't live in Switzerland.

We ended up leaving because the bar was closing and everybody went their seperate ways. I got home a little after 2am, meaning I was out wandering around for 17 hours. Long day!

Anyway, there is a real post for y'all. This whole posting everyday in November is totally not working.

Much Love!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

More Guitar

Time keeps getting away from me. Saturday was an extremely full day and I plan to write about it.

For now it's late at night and I am still trying to perfect my lesson plan for tomorrow (which will hopefully be fun).

Hopefully another guitar video will hold you all over until I have time to post some substance. For those of you who missed it, the link has been updated in my last post so you can actually see the Coldplay cover video.

The video of me singing Fear You Won't Fall is HERE.

Much Love!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Remember When I Played Guitar?

This whole "posting everyday" makes me run out of interesting stories pretty quickly. I guess the exercise is to either find excitement in everyday things or at least to try and write in such a way to make them sound exciting. Instead I decided to record a song on guitar and post it. Whoo!

I think this should totally count as a post. It took some practice and a few takes and then some editing for this video so the amount of effort is the same (if not more).

Tomorrow should be interesting. I am going to a cuisine festival and then out with Lucy to finally meet her boyfriend. So that should warrant a post. And yes, I still plan to finish posting about Japan...eventually.

Anyway, here is Yellow by Coldplay. I don't know why I look so serious. Just concentrating and worried about messing up, I suppose.

EDIT: I tried to upload the video on blogger and it didn't work. Tried to upload to youtube and it didn't work. So now I have an account on a Chinese video website Tudou (which means potato and I think that's hilarious). So finally, here is a link to the video I was talking about:

Much Love,

Thursday, 5 November 2009

New York Style Pizza: Two Strikes

So yesterday after work I was feeling a bit peckish and decided to go out to eat. My original plan was to eat at the food court underneath the Carrefour since I wanted to get groceries anyway. Did I mention the food court was open again after being under reconstruction? Did I mention it was closed to begin with? Oh's open again and I'm happy. Instead, I met up with a coworker (Karen) as we were walking back to the apartment building and we decided to get pizza.

The restaurant we went to is called New York Style Pizza. I think I might have mentioned it before. I like the pizza there because it tastes The way I expect it to. Like it tastes back home. I also liked it because it wasn't terribly expensive. Certainly not cheap but and ok price considering I would usually go there and end up with enough leftovers for a cold pizza breakfast and dinner to boot. But I don't think I'll be going back there again.

Last night was far from a pleasant dining experience. First of all the windows were open and the place was swarming with misquitoes. While we were waiting a COCKROACH crawled up along the edge of the table right in front of me and scared the ever living daylights out of me. We switched to a table at the other side of the restaurant (although considering what happened next we should have chosen a table at a different resaturant entirely).

Finally our pizza came out. I made my way through my first slice of delicious pesto pizza without incident. I was halfway through my second slice, enjoying a big bite when I felt something hard and sharp in my mouth. I spit it out immediately and in my hand there was something that looked an awful lot like glass.
Let's back up a bit. When I was in middle school, my music teacher told my class a story about a slave woman who wanted to kill her master. So when she was cooking she decided to grind up a drinking glass that one of the children had broken by accident and put it in the batter for the cornbread. At dinner the master ate a ton of that cornbread, saying it was the best she ever made. In the days to come the master was bed ridden, with an agonozing pain in his gut, slowly dying and no one could figure out why. He eventually died, his stomach torn up, bleeding from the inside.

So here I am staring at this shard in my hand (and two other smaller pieces that were in the same bite) and this story is the only thing in my head. After I got back to my apartment I did a bunch of reading online on the subject. If what I read is right, ground up glass won't hurt you, and anything big enough to do any damage you'd notice as soon as it was in your mouth, like I did with that piece of whatever-it-was in my pizza.

The waitress gave us 20% off and a coupon for next time (which I gave to Karen, be she brave enough to return). Sometimes the middle class American in me aches to be back in the US. First of all, I could accurately express how I felt at the moment had I been in the US. I could have asked to see the manager. The meal probably would have been free. The whole event probably wouldn't have happened at all.

It isn't even the cockroach that gets me. I saw one in the office about a month ago and I really didn't care. I don't want them around when I'm eating and I especially don't think they should be around when I am paying as much as I was for my meal. If I go to a tiny bring-your-own-chopstick style noodle shop, I wouldn't really be surprised if I saw a cockroach.

But there was something in my food. I think it's either plastic or Plexiglas. That piece was actually bigger than you see in the picture was bigger when it was in my food (I cut off a bit to try and analyze what it was). If the people working there were careless enough to let something like that get on the pizza, how do I know that next time it won't actually be glass?

Next time I want pizza I am going to go to Papa John's, Pizza Hut or making my own in my toaster oven. I know people make mistakes but I don't think I could go back there and enjoy that restaurant after sitting there feeling terrified that I was going to die an agonizing death of internal bleeding.**

The baseball metaphor doesn't really work here, but I like it anyway...two strikes and you're out, NYSP.

24 hours later and not dead,

**Yes I am dramatic. I realize that.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Toaster Oven!

So yesterday I went to BaBaiBan on my quest for a laptop battery. I struck out three times in a row. At BaBaiBan, the electronics store next door and at Best Buy. At BaBaiBan the man suggested I call lenovo and have them give me an address of a place nearby where I could get one and at Best Buy they said the best they could do was a 4 cell (mine is a 7 cell). Both said if I did get my hands on a replacement it would probably set me back over 1,000RMB ($150). UGH! I really don't know what to do at this point.

There is some good news though. As I was leaving Best Buy I noticed the toaster oven section. I have never stopped looking for a toaster over. As I was browsing I noticed one that had a sale sticker on it. It was the last one left in it's model and also has a slight dent on top. So instead of being 400 RMB it was 250 RMB! I of course bought it. Isn't it pretty?
Plus it fits PERFECTLY on top of my microwave. It saves me counter space and looks pretty spiffy. Talk about meant to be.

Tonight I went shopping and went a little "OMG I CAN BAKE" crazy. I got stuff for biscuits and cookies and even a frozen toasted sandwhich-y thing. Of course since I had a toaster oven in my apartment for almost a full 24-hours, I had to start baking immediately.
The cookies came out more like chocolate-chip cake. But you know what? They were warm and delicious and smell wonderful. And I can BAKE!

My last post I did at work so I couldn't add a picture, but here is the winner of the cooking contest, Sigma (far left). All three of these girls are my students. :-)
One last quick a black cat crossed my path twice. Should I be worried?

That's all for now. I need to get to sleep so I can wake up early for breakfast and TOAST SOMETHING!

Much Love,

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

PingHe Chef!

I was asked by one of my students to be a judge in a cooking competition that was held yesterday after school. Of course I said yes.

The club that organized it all is the "Olive Club" here in the high school. They promote healthy living and proper eating habits. There were six students that were competing and we had to grade each one on four different categories. Taste, health index, economy (how cheap or easy it is to make) and creativity.

There were three teachers as judges (myself included) and two student judges. Us teachers watched in trepidation as the food was being prepared. It didn't seem like anything was being washed and the room was jam packed with students touching and trying everything. All I could think was...I am SO going to get the flu.

The first dish we tried was a tuna and boiled egg sandwich. Not too creative or daring or healthy but good and solid and tasty. The next thing we had was potato salad type dish with potatoes, cucumbers and carrots. It was ok. Slightly sweet. Crunchy. Next came a weird dish of potatoes, tuna and corn...I'm not sure what it was supposed to be. It tasted ok but I can't imagine having it again. The next dish definitely got my highest score for creativity. It was a kind of glutinous rice sprinkled with sugar and served on rose petals. The rose was a bit bitter, the sugar was nice but the rice goo was pretty plain. My favorite dish was the 5th one. One of my students (do you hear the note of pride in my typing?) made a very yummy dish with cucumbers and tofu. It was garlicy and fresh tasting with just a bit of spice for a kick. Last, but certainly not least, another of my students made a mashed potatoes dish with bits of ham. It was pretty darn good and made me homesick for mashed potatoes.

In the end, the mashed potatoes came in the first, the cucumber and tofu came second and the potato/carrot salad came in third. And it's almost 24 hours later and I haven't gotten sick yet, so it looks good! I asked the student in charge of the club when there would be a cooking competition for the teahcers. :-D


The weather has gotten so weird. Last week I was wearing sandals and t-shirts comfortably. Today I am shivering in a sweater. Apparently this nice cold won't last too long though. It's supposed to get back up to the mid 70's later this week.

For those of you who care, please remember that Daylight Savings Time does not exist in China. I am therefore now 13 hours ahead. Keep that in mind when setting up skype dates or sending text messages (text messages I receive while sleeping will either be checked and immediately forgotten by Half-Asleep-Stephanie or will be replied to very grumpily).

Tonight I am going off to the BaBaiBan department store. My coworker reccomended it for getting a new laptop battery. Wish me luck!

Much Love,

Monday, 2 November 2009

Halloween 2009

Yes, I know. My plan to post everyday in November has already fallen short. Here it is, November 2nd, and I didn’t post yesterday, did I? Nope. Ahh well.

I wanted to post a bit about Halloween before it got too far away from Halloween.

First of all I was amused when my office mates mentioned how keen they were on the idea of decorating our office for Halloween. On the Tuesday before, we went out to Carrefour and got a bunch of decorations, a few costume pieces and even a pumpkin. I forget if it was Wednesday or Thursday during lunch that we decorated.

It was a mad and fun dash of stickers, balloons and spider webs. (I did most of the spider webs…I love doing the spider webs. Did you notice the spider webs?)

Most of the work I had been doing recently with my 11th graders was a bit dull, so I thought they deserved a bit something more fun. Something to show them that writing in English can be enjoyable. I also felt like being a little dramatic. When the students came into class I turned off all the lights. I had prepared ahead of time by drawing the curtains and blocking out as much sunshine as I could so the room would be as dark as possible. Then I turned a flashlight on my face and asked what holiday was coming up.

I started class with a spooky story. I had looked for a few online and decided to do a slight variation of one about a murderous doll. I looked a long time for something good and scary (I honestly had trouble sleeping in my lonely apartment after that night of research) and that would be easy enough to understand and still be creepy. Here is the basic story I told (slight variations were made in each telling):

“Once there was a girl named Sarah. Her mother gave Sarah a little doll, but she didn’t like it very much. She thought it was creepy. This doll had long brown hair and big brown eyes.

One night, Sarah woke up around midnight because she thought she heard a strange sound. This sound was a very quiet voice that was saying (said in a creepily quiet singsong voice): ‘Little doll, little doll, in the kitchen. Little doll, little doll, on the stairs. Little doll, little doll, in your sister’s room. And now she’s dead!’

Sarah woke up the next morning and her sister was gone. She told her parents about the little doll, but they didn’t believe her. They called the police and looked all day, but Sarah’s sister couldn’t be found. Sarah was very scared when she went to bed that night. Around midnight she heard the voice again: ‘Little doll, little doll, in the kitchen. Little doll, little doll, on the stairs. Little doll, little doll, in your parent’s room. And now they’re dead!’

Sarah woke up and found her parents gone as well. She was all alone. She didn’t know what to do. She knew no one would believe. She stayed in the house all day, too scared to even move. That night she couldn’t sleep. She just stayed in her room and waited. At midnight she heard the voice for the last time: ‘Little doll, little doll, in the kitchen. Little doll, little doll, on the stairs. Little doll, little doll, in your room now. AND YOU’RE NEXT!’”

Every time I told the story I said each “little doll” part quieter so they had to strain to listen and then abruptly changed to a louder, rougher, demonic voice for the “AND YOU’RE NEXT!” I think that plus the repetition, the suspense and the dark room made for a decently scary story. I got a lot of them to jump and a few of them to scream, which made me very happy. J

I then passed out paper, pens and flashlights and told them to write their own scary stories. I think writing their stories in the dark using flashlights added a lot of fun and spookiness to the class. A few of them got really creative and added sound effects or tried to tie their stories into the school to make them creepier. They were a few that weirder me out. One that really stuck with me was a story about a young girl whose shoulder’s kept hurting but all her doctor’s said she was fine. When a psychic suggested her parents take a photo of the girl to look for ghosts, they saw the ghost of a man who had been hung in their house. His feet were resting on the girl’s shoulders. *shudder*

On Friday a few people in the office dressed up. I didn’t want to wear my Athena costume to work, but I had my jester hat and shirt from last year’s Halloween so I just wore them.

From left to right here is Jane (the head of my department), Lotus, June, XuPing/Shopping, and me...the freakin' giant.

On Saturday I went on the LGBT Annual Pub Crawl. I went last year and had a TON of fun. This year wasn’t as good as last, and it was probably due to a lot of factors. One of the biggest was that I didn’t have Ron to hang out with this year like I did last year. Also, there were a ton more people than there was last year but the bars are still just as small as they were before. Which meant that people often got a drunk and then hung around outside. Which was difficult to do when it started raining. Oh well. I still had fun. I even won a prize this year for…erm…well…for having the largest breasts on the bus I was on.

I got really into my costume this year. I had the main part of the costume made at a tailor that Lucy recommended. This is what I gave her as reference:

I was really annoyed when the costume wasn’t ready to be picked up when the tailor said it would and then when I did pick it up it was a bit too big. I don’t think I’ll be going back to that tailor. For shoes, I bought a pair of plain brown sandals and then painted the top part with gold nail polish so that it looked like gold with leather. I also got some gold leaves at the craft market which I attached to a bent hanger to make myself a laurel crown. I also got some gold rope I wore as a belt. I painted my fingernails and toenails gold and had gold eye makeup and gold glitter on my arms and chest. Last but not least, I wore the matching ring and necklace that Elysse and Heather got me from Cyprus. Unfortunately, this is the best picture I got of my whole outfit. It's rather blurry and dark.

Because I was feeling extra crafty and didn’t feel like carrying a purse, I also sewed pockets for my cell phone/keys/extra makeup/etc into the skirt of the costume and a pocket for cash inside my bra. It worked out really well.

Here is a picture another pub crawler took of me on the bus. Also a bad quality picture, but at least you can see my crown better. I love how it came out.

I am a little annoyed right now because my camera has cracked out on me. The flash doesn't work anymore and I don't know how to fix it. I feel handicapped. How can I document my life here without the use of a camera? UGH! If I send it home to be fixed I just know it will take forever. I wonder if I can get it fixed here.

And because my electronics seem to like failing on me in pairs, my laptop battery is 100% GONE. It has been failing on me horribly since I got it back from CNS at Drew this summer. Yesterday I got a warning that it could no longer hold any charge. If the power chord gets disconnected my laptop shuts down immediately. I am going to try to go to the electronics market tomorrow to get a new laptop battery because this is BEYOND inconvenient.

Anyway, that's all for now. Hope you all had a good Halloween!

Much love,


Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Rocking Tiger

Yes, yes...I realize there has been a delay. And you'll have to wait a little longer. I am a bit frazzled right now. First there was that 8 day work week from hell and then immediately afterwards I got sick which meant I was pretty much going to bed as soon as I got home from work. Now I am trying to catch up on my workload that has seemed to have piled up out of nowhere.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. I will be turning in my mock exam grades this friday and the week after next is midterms which means things get easier for me (no lessons to plan or homework to correct). Right now I am in super efficient mode which means things are getting done and I am feeling good. I am digging myself out of this hole of things that need to get done.
Soon I shall post the next part about Japan. You'll just have to be patient a little longer. There will be at least two more entries about Japan to look forward to. Also, I am going to try and particpate in the November Blog Writing Month, which means posting everyday. The entries probably won't be as long as they usually are, but you'll get a month of constant updates.
To hold you over I thought I would post this picture. Isabelle unfortunately had to go back to Germany to finish up school, but she asked me to babysit her electric guitar. And by babysit...I play it. Lucy brought it over and we rocked out. While she's with me, this guitar shall be known as "Rocking Tiger". That way the two guitars in my apartment will be "Rocking Tiger" and "Shadow Dragon".....yes, I am a dork.
That's it for now. I will update as soon as I can.
Much love!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Japan Part Two: Kyoto and Geisha Makeovers!

Alright...continuing with part two!

We woke up in out hostel in Nara. We took some quick showers and checked out. We went to a restaurant nearby for "breakfast" (I put it in quotes because we both had non-breakfasty sandwiches). Then we went to the train station and headed to Kyoto. We had a little trouble figuring out how to get out of the train station at the exit closest to our hostel (There were lots of trains and hostel in this trip). We ended up chatting for a bit with another traveler from Canada. She was looking for a hostel to stay at for the night, so she decided to join us and check and see if there was an empty room where we were staying. It was POURING rain, so we decided to split a taxi rather than walk. That was another culture China the taxis are cheap enough so I don't really bat an eye at the idea of taking one even for a short distant if I'm carrying something heavy or the weather is bad. In Japan, this was the only time we took a taxi.

Once we arrived D'Arcy and I checked in. Our very brief travel companion was not so lucky, however, since the hostel was full. She asked the desk clerk where she could find another, I gave her one of my disposable ponchos and we said goodbye. Again we had to take our shoes off at the door. It was around this point I realized why D'Arcy wears slip on shoes. I got really tired of tying and untying my shoes. For this one, our room was on the 4th floor, which made dragging my suitcase up the stairs a LOT of fun. Ugh.

After checking in we went across the street to get some lunch. We got katsu pork, this kind of breaded and fried pork with a yummy sauce on top. It was delicious. It came with rice and this red miso soup.
Next was one of the things I was MOST looking forward to. The geisha makeovers! Technically we were being dressed up as "maiko" or geishas in training. We kind of lucked out that it was raining on the day we were planning on being inside. We hopped on a bus to head to the studio. Turns out we got on it heading the wrong way so we had to ride it for a long time. Oh well. It was a chance to check out the sites. Once we arrived we got a bit lost. We asked an obaasan (grandmother/old woman) for some help, which ended up getting us more lost. We eventually arrived though.

First we stripped down and put on the under robes and tabi socks (the ones with the big toe seperate)...boy did those feel weird. Then we were ushered into the makeup/wig/kimono room were we picked out our kimonos. At first I was drawn to one that was black and covered with flowers in all different colors, but D'Arcy suggested I get one that was blue and red. It did look more like the ones I think of when I think of a traditional kimono. D'Arcy also picked one that was blue, but with purple flowers.

Here you can see the room we were in. The kimonos are all lined up in the back.
We sat down in the makeup chairs and they put this weird hairnet thing on us. Then out came the makeup! The speed with which this woman worked amazed me. She started painting my neck with the white paint, brushing it on and then blending it all in. On the back of my neck she left a little of my bare skin without the paint which just made me think of Memoirs of a Geisha where the main character talks about that part of the makeup process.
Next she washed my face and put this pinkish reddish blush around my eyes and cheeks. Then covered my face with white paint. Again, the speed was ridiculous. One minute nothing, the next, Casper the Friendly Ghost was staring back at me. I just wish I could have had my glasses on ( know...good vision) so I could see the details of the whole process.

Here is D'Arcy post-white makeup but pre-everything else. Creepy, huh?
Next she went to the eyebrows. She started with a red pencil, drawing the shape in, and then switched to a black one. The eyes were the same, done first in red and then in black. I enjoy the sensation of someone else doing my makeup for me, so I kind of just half dozed while she was doing all this. I loved hearing D'Arcy commenting the whole while saying things like "Oh my god...that looks so cool" or "Weird! She's coloring your eyebrows red!". Last came the lipstick and mascara. And I was transformed! I wish I could have gotten more pictures of the process but it really happened so quickly. I would have taking more pictures of D'Arcy's but once I was done another woman came in and started dressing me in my kimono.

We were already wearing the white under robe. Next came this red skirt with white flowers. Next came this white fabric with flowers that they wrapped over my back and shoulders, which became the inside collar. Next came the kimono. Then they wrapped this wide red fabric around me from my chest to my hips. Then another layer of fabric, red with white flowers. Then came the black with gold (which I thought was a little weird since it didn't match at all) obi, complete with the giant back piece. And last was this weird ribbon like belt thing with a metal clasp in the front. Each layer got tighter and tighter. I could feel myself standing straighter and straighter. It felt a little like wearing a corset or Renaissance dress bodice (something I actually enjoy) except that instead of trying to create an hourglass figure, I was being turned into a tube. According to D'Arcy that's the look geishas try to curves.

Here you can see D'Arcy's whole outfit and all the different layers.
This is the only full body shot I have with me in it right now, so you can see the layers on my outfit. It's a bit blurry. Sorry. And yes...we are being Charlie's Angels.
The last piece was the wig. They tried to put one on me, but it didn't fit. Little known fact...I have a huge head. Side story: In the Medieval club back in college, we had to take our measurements so that if the costuming department ever had to make something for us, it was already on record. That included head size for hats and such. Out of all the people that had their head's measured, myself and I guy we called Panda were tied for the largest head in the whole club. Yeah.

ANYWAY. I was actually a little worried they wouldn't have one that would fit me, but the second one did the trick. Boy did that wig feel weird. It was heavy, for one thing, so I felt a little like falling over. It really was impressive though. The hair around the scalp was designed so that it was attached to a nearly invisible mesh piece. When you wear it, it looks like the hair is growing out of your head. As soon as I was all geisha-ed (or maiko-ed), I was rushed out of the room and down the hall to the photo studio.

The photographer guy had some music playing and spoke enough English to tell me how to pose. I posed holding this weird but interesting small fabric ball (called a temari?), with a fan, and with a big red parasol...not all at the same time of course. The worst was when he had me put on the big wooden sandal/shoes thing. They DID NOT FIT. Half of my foot was hanging off the back. He arranged it so my kimono was covering up the back of the shoe so it looked like they fit. I REALLY felt like I was going to fall over. While he was taking pictures he would say things like " this" and then would turn his own head the way he wanted. He kept telling me to smile more. I was aiming for the demure smile I always associate with geishas. Oh well. I was worried about letting my teeth show. I've gotten a few compliments in my life about the whiteness of my teeth but anyone's teeth would look yellow next to a white painted face and bright red lipstick. I then watched D'Arcy go through the same thing. After we took a few pictures with our own cameras and then got stripped down and washed the makeup off.
I was disappointed to find out that our printed pictures and the CD with all of the shots won't arrive until after a month goes by. We decided to send everything to D'Arcy (cuz it was cheaper and easier) and D'Arcy will send them to me when they arrive. I really can't wait. When it arrives I will be sure to update better geisha pictures.

We were both kind of wiped out after our makeovers. We headed back towards the hostel to rest for a bit, then got some dinner. After that we took a bus to Gion, the famous geisha district. We got a couple of beers and just walked up and down the streets. We chatted and people watched. I tried not to stare too much whenever I saw a woman in a kimono (unlike this incredible rude foreigner who followed a woman in a kimono with his video camera for a few blocks...ugh). We looked into the window of D'Arcy's favorite shop (which was sadly closed at the time), which makes jewelry and other things out of old kimonos. We walked for a while on a small path next to the canal. It was cool to just be in a place that had so much history and culture.
It was also on the streets of Gion that I experienced a "man" (man here rhymes with Han, as in Han Chinese or Han Solo). For those who know what baozi is, it is really similar. It's a steamed bready dumpling filled with a tasty filling. Niku man is a meat one, piza man is a pizza filling. And it's DELICIOUS. I think I had around 10 piza mans during my stay in Japan.

We realized it was getting late and we didn't feel like paying for a taxi. We took the last bus back to the hostel. We stayed up a bit longer watching silly videos on the iternet and chatting with the two women who were sharing the room with us. Then it was bed time.

We did more stuff in Kyoto the next day but this post is already WAY TOO LONG, so I'm going to lump it into the next post.

More soon!


Sunday, 18 October 2009

Japan Part One: Arrival and Nara

So I realized after an e-mail from my mother (and then further urging from Lysse) that I still hadn't talked about my trip to Japan yet. So here we go!

I made sure to have everything ready the night before, so the day I left was mostly waiting and cleaning my apartment. I asked the gate guard if he could help me to get a taxi to come to the apartment building (way at the back of campus) since it was POURING rain. I was worried at first that my attempt at communication had gone badly, but the guard showed up at the door with a taxi exactly when I asked. I bargained with the driver to take me all the way to the airport for less than the meter price because I didn't feel like switching over to the maglev. I had some noodles at the airport for dinner, then boarded my flight to Japan.

The customs paperwork was simple and the flight was only slightly more than two hours. We still got a meal, which was ok. I felt really fuzzy brained when I got off the plane. Whenever anyone spoke to me, I thought it was Japanese, even if they were speaking English. I think I am so used to the Chinese accent that the Japanese accent was just bizarre for me for the first day or so. The poor customs guy had to ask me the same simple question three times before it sunk into my thick skull and I could answer. I got my luggage, exited the gate and saw D'Arcy. YAY! We talked for the whole train ride from the aiport to the center of the city, then while walking from the train station to the hostel and then for another few hours at the hostel. We had about 6 months of news to catch up on. :-)

The next morning we packed up and headed to the train station. We took a 2 and half hour bus ride to Kyoto and then a train to Nara. When we checked into the Nara hostel I had one of my first culture shocks. I knew about the Japanese custom of taking off your shoes at the door, but I didn't think we'd have to do it at the hostel door. D'Arcy just laughed at me when I asked if it was safe for us to leave our shoes at the door. "Won't someone steal them?" I kept asking. "This is Japan." she kept saying. I also didn't know that there would be shoes just for the toilet. They even said "Toilet Shoes" on them. And the door to our room in the hostel didn't lock! Apparently Japan is either a lot safer or more trusting (or both) than either America or China.

We took a bus to the deer shrine and big buddha in Nara. There were deer EVERYWHERE. They just wander around. They aren't scared of people (since the people there feed them) so they come right up and sniff you and you can pet them!
We walked through, taking pictures and petting the deer, until we reached the temple with the big carved wooden Buddha
Entering the temple I showed D'Arcy what a nerd I was. Before coming I did a bunch of reading on line about Japan (language, culture, customs, etc) and read somewhere that before entering a temple the correct procedure was to wash your left hand, wash your right hand, fill your left hand with water to wash out your mouth and then wash your left hand again. Yeah...the whole time in Japan I acted like I was going to be tested afterward.

Here's the water and ladles you can use to wash your hands.

There they had something called "ema", these small wooden planks that your write a wish on and hang it up in the temple so it comes true. We wished for health and happiness for our friends and family and that our friend Tom (who was supposed to come but wasn't able to at the last minute) could come see Japan someday.

I found out that my Chinese credit card was accepted at the temple gift shop so I got a few small things for some friends and coworkers. After that I got some deer cookies so we could feed the deer. That was INTENSE. As soon as we had food for them we got REALLY popular. I got bitten on the butt and then on the thigh hard enough to leave a bruise. OUCH!

D'Arcy is being mobbed here...
We got "soft cream" (soft serve ice cream); mine was green tea and vanilla mixed and was quite tasty.We met up with D'Arcy's friend Masako for dinner. I chose a "mother and child" rice dish, which means chicken and egg. It was pretty good. I had a weird moment of shock eating it because I think I assumed it was going to taste a certain way from looking at it (probably because it looked like a similar Chinese dish) but it tasted completely different from what I expected. Once I got over that, I enjoyed it.

Masako and I at dinner.
We went to Mr. Donut afterward for dessert and coffee (since I was exhausted). We walked and ended up at this nice pond. We sat and hummed for turtles (long story, but some of my blog readers will understand). We talked about ghosts, which was a little freaky to talk about in the dark. Masako believes in ghosts 100% and told us of some of the ones she has seen. I'll believe in ghosts the second I see one and not a minute sooner, but the conversation gave me goosebumps.

We walked towards the train station but were sidetracked by an arcade. There is something called "purikura" which is really popular. It's basically a really intense photo booth. You choose different frames and backgrounds and such and then afterward you edit the pictures by drawing, writing and putting clip art and special effects on them. Then the pictures are printed as stickers that you can put on your phones/notebooks/whatever and share with your friends. I only ended up doing it twice in Japan. We also played a taiko drumming game. It's like Guitar Hero...except instead of a guitar your playing a taiko style drum. It was a lot of fun.
Then it was back to the hostel and to bed.

More soon!