Sunday, September 27, 2009

Best of Changzhou

September 26, 2009

Before I came to China my friend Ryleigh told me that I would have experiences in here that no one would ever understand unless they were there. I wondered what type of experiences would fit this category. Today was the fist day that I decided would be almost impossible to accurately describe to an outsider. But I’m going to give it a go.

It was supposed to start off with “lunch for Mr. Fung’s birthday.” Mr. Fung is the beloved bus driver that carts us around town if we’re on a special errand or something. He was turning 36 and doesn’t speak a lick of English…. But still invited all 11 of us girls to something much more flashy than we would have expected. We were told that there would be cars to pick us up. A random bunch of 3 or 4 cars came and we loaded up into them one by one. It only took about 7 minutes drive to get there. Funny how nice it was to be in a car for once. I noticed how smoother the ride was compared to the bus. We unloaded along with about 10 other teachers from our Tsing Ying school. After going through a couple of buildings we were lead up a marble staircase to the designated party room. After everyone was seated there were maybe 100 people in this room. I knew it would be an interesting meal, just looking at the things they had already pre-dished up for us. Course after course after course came. Everything Chinese you could imagine: noodles, rice porridge, duck, eel, chicken feet, dates, sweet potato, egg rolls, whole fish, shrimp, birthday cake, miso soup, beef tendon, “roast” beef, snake, beans, watermelon, fish eggs, dumplings, and MEAT after MEAT after MEAT. And its not like we just went in a line and picked what we wanted…. They brought us these dishes for each table. Each dish had PLENTY of food for each girl. We started counting the courses after a while. An hour and a half had passed and we assumed that the meal was coming close to an end. The dishes kept coming. It then became a game and we started to count the plates. Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen…. And so on til 30 COURSES. And so it was, the most full I’ve been in 4 weeks. They gave us elaborately wrapped/decorated party favors including candy, individual birthday cakes to take home, cigarettes, lighters, and Great Wall Cabernet. Haha. Too funny. Mr. Fung’s 14 year old son was boozing it up the whole time with the adults.

Next we made our way upstairs to a reserved KTV room. KARIOKE. It’s so big here. This soon gravitated from singing Chinese songs we were unfamiliar with to just a big dance party including a lot of Mr. Fung’s friends. The Chinese boys our age were extremely drunk from lunch and were continuously asking most of us girls if we had a boyfriend or if we wanted a Chinese boyfriend. One that I named Harry would not leave me alone ha. He was really nice but just a little pushy. He put his camera phone two inches in front of my face a few different times to try and get a good shot of me … even though the “lighting was bad.” ☺ We eventually were all on the dance floor when Harry pulled me into the middle of the circle to get groovy with him. Ha- this worried me a little. So I quickly grabbed both of his hands, stretched out our arms to make a distanced circle between us, and did an almost galloping motion from right to right and then left to left ha. It reminded me of the dance move that Jo March does on Little Women with Teddy. And the Asians aren’t too big into it. Ha. Harry kept giving me the up-and-down along with “I like it” and “You are so nice.” So I told him I had a boyfriend.

We left that huge Birthday party and were taken back to the school in cars. Next on the agenda was an ILP family that came from Shanghai to visit us. They had really young kids (one was a baby). The Mom is in her mid thirties and did ILP twice in China. Between the two ILP’s she served a mission in Taiwan. The Husband was a head teacher with her the second time she did ILP in china (both of them speak awesome Chinese). We met the family at the regional conference in Shanghai and they just told us that they wanted to bring us some stuff that we probably couldn’t find here. GEE. They were too nice. For each girl they brought pancake mix, boxed cereal, 3 containers of soy milk, peanut butter, jam, cake mix, syrup, frosting, spaghetti, and a bunch of other stuff. Just dropped it off… all of that food for all of us like it was no big deal. How nice of them. We just couldn’t get over how thoughtful it was of them to drive 90 minutes to basically bring complete strangers a bunch of food and head back home.

Next we had to make it to a performance. This was our 4th time performing our dance routine. It shows a lot of our Chinese teachers from the school and a little bit of us. It has been a big deal thing. At the beginning when we were learning it, our rehearsals would last up to 6 hours or so. Anyway….. So we get to this outdoor stage to perform. There were already a couple thousand people seated- government officials to be exact. We waited a while for the program to start and BAMM. Fireworks! Yep, it has begun. I think I see fireworks every week in China. And I catch myself wondering if they’re ok with the sky being gray every day. So, the fireworks get going, we wait for our turn to perform and we’re on stage. Being the tallest, I’m in the Middle… actually front and center ha. It was fun. I loved hamming it up on stage and keeping a big cheesy grin on my face the whole time. It’s hard to imagine this, but picture a bunch of Chinese teachers in Michael Jackson and flapper girl outfits dancing away on stage, followed by 11 young female Americans in denim capris and bright colored polos dancing to a song that says “Chihuahua” over and over. Bubble machines going off on either side of the stage as well as a fog machine. EVERYTHING in China has to be really glamorous (or in my opinion extremely overdone ha). But nonetheless it is totally part of the culture and its fun to be a part of that. So we finish performing, the crowd goes wild for the Tsing Ying school and we go off stage. About an hour later we do the finale number with all of the performers which includes a lot of froofy/graceful moves with our arms and hands. We stand still in the final pose and AGAIN, fireworks! But this time BIG fireworks. Like the ones in Eagle Wood on the 4th of July. We were blown away by the fact that they were going off directly above us. We were literally cowering our heads to avoid the debris falling from the sky as the show went on for five more minutes. This didn’t seem to be a problem to anyone else ha… and it also seemed completely normal to have this firework show in the middle of the city next to a bunch of 34 story office buildings.

Oh China ☺

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


What to say, what to say.

For starters I have my big vacation planned out- all the details and everything! It's next Wednesday. Can't believe it. So here's an idea of what will happen: Take a 2-3 hour train ride to Shanghai Wednesday night, stay at Leanna's house that night, get up early the next morning and board our TWENTY THREE hour train ride on a HARD SEAT. yeah. All the beds were sold out. This should be fun. Then get to Guilin. Take a train to Jishoua (3 hours or so?) then a bus to Fenghuang, then a taxi to the hostel. Yes. That's just getting there. So we'll be in Fenghuang for 3 days. This is ancient china. Red lanterns everywhere, city divided by a river with little bridges and stone steps across, not a lot of modern-ness. And we couldn't be more excited. Then.... going to Yangshou. You can google this place too. One of the most beautiful places in China. We plan on swimming the mud caves, maybe doing some hikes, and hopefully just find a bunch of random things to do! This vacation is over the Chinese Moon Festival... so basically its only second to the Chinese New Year... yeah. LOTS of Asians... EVERYWHERE. I have to carry all of my belongings with me in a back pack the whole time. So for eight days I plan on taking two shirts, shorts, jeans, and tennis shoes. A little bit of snacks, some pills, and three other girls! Woot.

The Chinese experience still gets better every day. My kids are DARLING. Even if they aren't my students or I don't know them, I have little kids running up to me wanting to hold my hand or get a hug or just practice their English by saying "HELLO!" Precious. These are the names of my homeroom: Jake, Minnie, Sally, Nicolas, Kevin, Katie, Jenny, and Blake. They call me "Teacher Barrack" because often times they call me "Block." When I correct them and make the rrrrr sound, it comes out as "Barrack". Ha. Good times asia.

Went to church again last week and I'll be going again this week. It does take a bit of time but every time I get there it is well worth it. I wake up at 5 to get ready, leave the school at 545, catch a 45 minute bus, take a train for about an hour, take the metro, and get to church a little before it starts at 10. I love it though. And I never regret going. Oh yeah- I have a calling now. Sunday school teacher for the young men! All two of them ha. I'm excited though. Because in truth, I've never really been in love with Sunday School. So now that I am teaching it, maybe things will go smoother? Who knows.

One of my new thrills here is giving the Chinese people English names. It's just the funnest thing to do. Even I have an Asian name: Ting Ting. The other day on the train we met a boy who looked exceptionally bright. So, we named him Harvard. Other names have included George, Obama, Gus, Dr. Seuss, and some others that I can't remember.

Just figured out how to taste the MSG in your food: watch for the tingle in your tongue. It's like they are trying to get us all buzzed up on the food or something. But whatever. Most of it tastes good. It just reminds me of the Teen Girl Squad comics, when the girls get MSG'd from eating pan-asian-rolls. :)

It's getting not so unbearably hot here. It's rained most days this week, which is nice for me, because I get to wear more of the small wardrobe that I brought.

And now, I get to go teach a morning class the difference between MAD, SAD, and GLAD. After they eat the hard boiled eggs that are delivered to their room every morning ha. Ok well more later. Thanks for the emails! Maybe someday I'll figure out how to post pictures...

Wo Ai Ni

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Weekend in Shanghai*

Wow this place is awesome. Unfortunately I won't be able to post pictures on here but oh well. I'll make sure to use those "paint a picture" skills I learned in school. So the miracle for this weekend was that my mother's dear friend, Leanna, let me and a few of my friends stay with her in Shanghai this weekend. This city is ALIVE and there is so much to do. Yesterday we got up, ate a delicious breakfast and went out to see some of the city. Leanne and her driver Mr. Ma took us to some of the coolest places to shop! We went a little crazy when we saw all of the awesome things because Changzhou is really not much of a tourist town. At all. We bought everything from cool antique watches to satchels, Buddha rings, old music, chess sets, bracelets, jewelry boxes, and postcards. Fun day with the girls, Leanne, and her cute daughter Margerette (is that how you spell it???). After the shopfest and eating some delicious food for lunch (dumplings, soup, tofu, fresh greens) we headed to the other side of town and went to a regional conference. Elder Oaks is here in China for the weekend to speak. I really really liked some of the things he said:

"The purpose of life is the means to become what God would have us become . . . All people that live on this earth are children of God . . . Don't let the ways of the world lead you to believe that God has changed His standards that have led us through the ages."

Very good. Then for the closing song we sang "Families can be Together Forever." Did they really have to? ha. They must have known that most of us are thousands of miles from home. After the conference we headed back to Leanne's place and went just around the block for some ice cream and foot massages. I think I was laughing 63% of the time. I guess that I am just an extremely tickle-ish person and will probably never fully benefit from a massage as most people do. Hard life, I know it. Today is Sunday and we're headed back to the other side of town for more conference. There's a special YSA fireside after and they're having me play the piano for some musical number- wish me luck! ha. We're headed back to Changzhou tonight so we can teach in the morning. Hopefully the kids with swine flu recovered over the weekend so we don't get it as well. Well, more later!

Wo Ai Ni!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I'd say every day has a miracle. Or something close to it. For example, the other day I was buying train tickets with a couple of my friends to Shanghai for the weekend. After a 45 minute bus ride to the station we discovered that there was no ticket booth that had someone who spoke English. After standing at a booth, confused, with about 15 impatient Chinese people behind us, Frank came out of nowhere. "Do you need some help?" he said in his cute little asian accent. "YES, we do!", we happily exclaimed. That was the miracle on Tuesday. Yesterday's miracle was that us ILP teachers found a website the hacked our way into BLOGSPOT and FACEBOOK! Beautiful. Yes, there are a million popups and yes it probably wouldn't make Mao very happy. But nonetheless I can finally make a post and tell a little about my time thus far in CHINA.

Getting here was quite the adventure. Us 11 girls took a flight from Salt Lake City to San Fran, then from there to Taiwan, then from there to Shanghai, then a 3 hour bus ride to our interesting "little" city, Changzhou. From the minute I walked into the airport until we stepped foot into our dormitories, it took us a total of 34 hours to get here. Changzhou has more people than Salt Lake and is a pretty huge city, but is a small place for China. So, it is not visible on most maps we find here.

Getting around is actually not that bad. Sometimes we're surprised to find that if we just start speaking to someone they actually know "a little english". To get into the big part of town we take the 302 bus which costs 1 YUAN (the equivalent of about twenty cents). Everywhere we go here, we get interesting looks, as if we're walking around naked or something. Changzhou is not a tourist town. You can figure that out when you google it and nothing pulls up besides this blog. For a lot of the Chinese here, we are the first white people they've seen in real life. The little kids are so cute and telling. They get huge eyes, gasp, stare, and then call for their parent's attention so that they're sure to see the white person.

We teach at an international school called Tsing Ying. We live with the kids in the same dorms, eat with them, and teach them for 3-4 hours every day. I love it. We pass them and all of their cute little asian faces scream "Hellllo teacher!" Teaching is fun, but demanding and requires a lot of energy. I have an awesome room mate, Abby Barth. Friend from USU. woot. Our beds are literally wooden boxes with less than an inch of padding. Yet everyday as I lay to sleep it seems to get softer and softer. We were without hot water for about 2 weeks, but for the last week it has been working. Hopefully stays that way ha. I have also become quite accustomed to my personal squatter. Mastering this method should be considered an art. No more just sitting on a toilet seat and pulling out your favorite magazine. We have AC, which means we can relax in our room. It has been cooling off lately, but when we got here it was HOT. The time difference was initially hard to adjust to, but we finally did it. Here, we are 14 hours ahead of Mountain time.

We were really lucky last week and were able to go to a private church meeting in the Nanjing branch in Nanjing, China. It was great to see some other Americans and be able to freely speak about religion. This weekend we're going to Shanghai! Crazy. Me and three friends will be staying with my mom's high close school friend Leanna. We cannot wait. She's going to show us some fun places over there. We're also going to a sort of "stake conference" where Elder Oaks will be speaking.

October first is the big week long holiday for most Chinese people. It is called the Moon Festival. They eat moon cakes, sit and stare at the "very very round moon" (the full moon ha), and celebrate. For that big week long vacation me and a few other girls are going to take the vacation of our life! The first city we will be going to is called Fenghuang. Check out this link to see some awesome pictures of this ancient town: "". Then we'll make our way to Yangshuo. You should also check this out if you have some time to kill. Both way beautiful cities.

Any who, I kind of don't know what to write anymore or what people even care to hear ha. But when I get connected with my laptop this weekend I'll be sure to post some sweet pictures of my good old time here. Yes I miss some things back home, but everyday I love this place more and more. Wo Ai Ne!!