Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Life Post China

That whole "I'm going to write a blog post every day and keep it updated all the time with all my adventures" thing obviously didn't last. I should have listened to the Norweenish when she told me that it would end up that way.

Jetlag is a horrible, strange thing that keeps getting you long after you think you're safe. Though the flight coming home wasn't nearly as horrid as the flight to China, though I think not sitting there thinking, "What the hell did I just get myself into?!" was a big part of that.

Since being home I have not accomplished much other than turning 20, but then again that's not really an accomplishment since that would have happened whether or not I wanted it to.

I feel as though I have entered into a completely new period of life. Everything is changing, largely for the better, and yet things are still gloriously the same.

The simple things in life like books, movies, cookie dough, pizza and Gilmore Girls marathons, and family are still the same.

Being an adult is new. Don't get me wrong, I think I have always tried to grow up faster than everyone else to catch up with my siblings, but I think I have crossed a very big threshold. I am taking a college class (yes, be shocked you people who only heard that I didn't want to go to college without listening to the part where I would go if I really wanted something, sheesh!) I have started to make a more solid year plan, and I feel I'm on the road to finding what I am truly passionate about in life, besides Star Wars.

I rather enjoy life these days. Being the single, and therefore very devoted aunt, is a fabulous thing, I have found a few true friends that are great and help keep me insane...I mean sane. I am working on improving myself in physical, spiritual, and mental capacities and I am living life to its fullest, at least trying to. I'm taking chances and trying new things.

There isn't a real rhyme or reason to this post other than to just recap, mostly for myself, of how life is.

God is real, and He is good and He does indeed answer prayers.

Image result for smiling hedgehog
Take and pass around a smile.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Little Things

Hello again.

Monday I hit my two month mark. I now only have 50 days until I venture back home. I will get home just in time for Christmas, and Star Wars. I cannot honestly say which I am more excited for. New Star Wars film or Christmas? Just kidding! I am more excited to see my family! Especially my new niece that everyone else has met and enjoyed except me.

As it has come closer to the holiday season (Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas) I have realized that there are a lot of little things that you completely take for granted and don't really even think about.

For example, Halloween decorations in stores before August is over and Christmas decorations in stores before Halloween has even come and gone. It seems silly but knowing that there will not be one early Christmas themed anything is a bit depressing. It further sets in the fact that I am indeed missing a good majority of the Christmas season.

Never fear! I have compensated by listening to my favourite Christmas music. It has not only kept me sane on the days that I have wanted to come home but it has made me feel like some thing will be the same during the Christmas rush that I will be missing.

Hocus Pocus is another little thing that I really took for granted and forgot to even think about! I have hence declared that November cannot start until Bryn and I have watched Hocus Pocus. If it does not happen before the 31st (due to the crazy amounts of decorating we are doing for this Friday) I will not accept it as November until I have watched it. Tradition simply cannot be overlooked.

Other little things matter too. 

The fact that my roommate is almost as OCD as me and understands my weird obsession with having a clean room is a huge blessing and I know I could not have made it for four months without that.

  The fact that even though she cannot speak any English, Auntie Spring Flower says "hello" to us every time she sees us is simply wonderful. How I wish I could talk to her!

The fact that Frank (one of students who is occasionally prone to bad behavior) was good all day today and did not lose any of his "stars" is amazing! Also the fact that, of his own free will, he gave me a hug today at the beginning of class is something that I will always remember and cherish. He is such a sweet boy!

My mom coming in to tuck me in to bed at night is something that I also have taken for granted. I really miss my mom and dad and the clean house that my mom keeps.

Playing video games or watching parts of an episode of Star Trek with my dad is something I also miss. The other girls here simply don't understand why I love nerdy things like that.

Having a shower that is separate from my toilet is also something I miss. It's the little things like not having to worry about accidentally stepping into the squatter or dropping your razor (or toothbrush) into it while you are showering.

I've decided that life is made up of a million little things that when happening may seem insignificant but when pulled together create something wondrous that we call life.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wonder, Regular, Allergic?

Hello blog world. It's been a while. That goal of writing a post every day didn't work out so I changed it to at least one a week. As of now it appears as though it may only be one a month! Hopefully I will be able to keep on top of it better for my remaining time in Guzhen.
Since you tuned in last, I have traveled across most of the country, seen one of the seven wonders, become a regular, and discovered that I am allergic to bananas. There's a lot in just that one sentence that if it did not capture your interest you should just leave now because some of those things are pretty amazing!
Let's start small with The Great Wall of China. After traveling across nearly all of China on a train, we arrived in Beijing. Arriving was a glorious thing as it meant we were no longer confined to a small space where lice was too great a possibility and second hand lung cancer was a guarantee. What mode of transportation could this have been? A sleeper train. I am disappointed to say that I do not sleep like a baby on trains (ten points to whoever gets that reference). The ride itself was smooth and could be enjoyable were it not for the cramped sleeping bunks (that may or may not have contained clean bedding) and zero ventilation. Ventilation was only an issue seeing as most men consistently smoked throughout the twenty one hour trek. Every time the air vents came on, similar to being in an airplane, the air was recirculated only pushing more contaminated air through each compartment. I was awoken several times by a burning sensation in my nose and throat. Hopefully the damage sustained is not permanent.
Arriving in Beijing was a wonderful thing. It was both slightly cleaner air, and it was cold! Cold has become such a foreign concept to me living in southern China where it has been a consistent 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with a lovely mix of at least 70% humidity. This was most certainly not the case in north China. It was cool enough the first few days to warrant the need of a beloved maroon hoodie.
Hiking the Great Wall was such an amazing experience! It was cold and extremely windy but it made for near perfect climbing weather considering the difficulty of our hike. To avoid the mass amounts of people sure to be on other sections of the Great Wall due to the week long national holiday, we opted to hike a strenuous yet secluded portion. After a bus ride that last approximately two hours we arrived at the Wall and were given a very nice introduction and brief history by a very hung over tour guide. We were then given free reign to hike as we pleased through the six guard towers. This was a challenging feat considering the near vertical incline of the wall and the uneven steps. Though it was a challenge it was most definitely worth it! I walked mainly with Bryn and a nice young man from Manhattan that we named Manhattan Mike. We all reached the top and swapped taking pictures while trying not to get blown off. As we neared the ending there was one watch tower that we did not go in at the beginning of our hike and I (feeling very energetic and pumped for life) suggested we climb into it. In doing so I somehow managed to miss the last step into the tower and proceeded to fall forward, causing my back pack to fling over my body and cushion the fall for my head. To think I was so close to not having a klutz moment on the Great Wall. Ah well, had to have a good story! I also fulfilled my inner child by quoting in one of the guard towers, "Now all of China knows you're here!", "Perfect." from Mulan. It was a very satisfying moment indeed.
There are many more adventurous stories from our week in Beijing but I will save those for another post since this is sure to be a long one and I want to keep my readers full attention.
There are four places that I have become a regular at surrounding our apartment. The Fry Place, the Convenience Store, the Dumpling Place, and the Noodle Place.
 The Fry Place is a little shop on the corner that sells a variety of items that include but are not limited to, spring rolls, rolled rice noodles, sesame bean rolls and bean filled pumpkin rounds. I generally opt for the sesame bean rolls which though they may sound interesting in a bad way they are quite good and I found that I tend to crave them because they contain bean which is a protein, which is something that I am severally lacking in my otherwise good China diet.
The Convenience Store is no more than 50 steps outside of our apartment building and contains all manner of delicious necessities. Ok, really it just has this ice cream bar that I really like, some good juices, and giant cup of noodles. We go there almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day and are very well known. I have even been given an ice cream from the secret stash under the containers in the freezer since there wasn't one of its kind on the top.
The Dumpling Place is down the street, basically under our apartment and has a very delightful pancake, fry bread thing. Not quite sure what it is but it is delightful and we get that probably once a week.
The Noodle Place is a slightly longer journey but has delicious noodles and dumplings for a very reasonable place. Occasionally we eat there more than once a week.
The other night, after getting a pancake at the Dumpling Place, Keirsha and I went to the fruit stand and we both decided to get bananas. I hadn't had one since coming to China and it sounded good (which if you know me well enough you know that craving a banana is a rare thing since I don't like the taste of them unless its in banana bread). So we started to eat them on our way to our apartment and my mouth started to itch a little bit. Not unlike other times eating fruits(thanks Dad) so I was not alarmed. That is until my lips started to go numb and my throat felt very tight and my tongue started to go numb as well. It was sort of alarming. Thank goodness I have a good roommate who has experience having allergic reactions (something I can say I am very unexperienced in) and she had some Benadryl on hand which she made me take quickly. I also went to the convenience store and bought a Pepsi since that usually clears up the itchy mouth. So I guess I won't be eating bananas anytime soon. Ever since that night though I have craved them.
That is a very brief summary of the things which have happened the last month or so. I will be better at writing more for the remaining seven weeks left. Yes you read that right, only seven more weeks until I am home!
Well, goodbye blog world.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

China Week 1

Well, one week in China down and I don't want to count how many more. I really like it here. Sure the toilets are interesting and they double as the shower and you step outside and you're instantly wet but it's really a great place!

I can't believe it has only been a week and a half since I got to feels like forever!! In a good way.

Teaching was a tiny bit of a disaster but I guess that's only natural on the first day. The second day went much better and I am excited to get back to it! The little kids are so adorable I just want to keep them forever! Even though they call me teacher baby because that's one translation of my Chinese name that the school gave me. They also call me Miss Evie. Apparently Larissa is way too hard to pronounce here so Evie was the spontaneous nick name I was given and it stuck so there you have it.

After only two days of teaching we had our first vacation. We went to a town called Yangshuo. It is so incredibly beautiful! Our hostel was nicer than our apartment in Guzhen and they had almost western food which was great but we found ourselves craving Chinese food most of the time. Our hostel was situated roughly ten minutes out of town in a picturesque valley. The road in to town ran along the Li River and was densely covered by trees and green vegetation mixed with dark stone.

Our first adventure was getting there. We took a sleeper bus. For any Harry Potter fans out there, imagine the Knight Bus and a much smaller and more cramped (and way less magical) version and that is what I rode for 11 hours instead of the 7 it was supposed to be. It was very tight and I was personally very frightened at the lack of cleanliness, then again I am just an OCD clean freak. It was nice to sleep for that long of a ride though.

When we finally got to our hostel, Trippers Carpe Diem, we showered, ate and then headed off on our next adventure-the MUD CAVES!

Ah the mud caves. What an experience! Too bad we didn't know we could bring in our phones or cameras. Such a lost photo opportunity. There were so many incredible rock formations and unlike in the US we could actually touch them! It was truly amazing to see.

Then we came to the giant pool of mud. I have to say it took quite a bit for me to get in since I have a fear of water that I can't see the bottom of and what's in it with me but I overcame that and proceeded to cover my entire body in mud. I went down the natural rock slide and just generally had a good time in the mud with the girls. Then we showered off, relatively and walked a little ways to the natural hot spring. It felt so good! This is where I am pretty sure I saw an Israeli couple that I know I have met before at Zion's or something. Crazy small world!

The next day was mostly a lazy day with intermittent bike riding around the valley and in to the city.

That night we found the kind of cultural experience we had been looking for in a street market. It was so much fun to see everything just like in the movies. We also found the most amazing Mango place with to die for mango juice with a clever tradition of putting paper cup holders on all their beverages and then having their patrons pin them to the walls with a personalized message. So cool. I also found a legit Prada wallet and tried bartering for my first time ever and I must say that I am an absolute pro!

Saturday we rode bikes most of the day while we explored a bit more. Several hours were spent in the city further exploring its many hidden treasures before we took a trip down the river on bamboo rafts.

I am not capable of describing the beauty of that ride. The bamboo raft was extremely relaxing. The intermittent rain made the time even more magical. As did the four weddings we passed. Apparently that's a thing here, to get your wedding pictures on bamboo rafts in the middle of the river. Gotta say it would be quite beautiful!

Our last night in Yangshuo was spent in town going to our favourite places one last time and talking to a few of the other ILP groups that were also there.

What an experience!

That is until I got sick the next day on the bus ride back. It was also a sleeper bus but far less posh than the one before and I am fairly certain that I got the hot seat on the bus like in elementary school. Which didn't help the icky way I was starting to feel.

We eventually got off the bus and found that we were instead in Sha Lang, not Guzhen. Thankfully, our wonderful coordinator Ann got us a taxi and we were home roughly 35 minutes later.

Home. I didn't think that I would call this little apartment home so quickly but it truly feels like home right now. Obviously not the home I will always call home but it is a place of comfort and solace and familiarity which I rather enjoy.

Anyways, we arrived home and I know that I was running a temperature and I felt like I was going to throw up. After taking a shower and almost blacking out, I took cold medicine and tried to sleep. I proceeded to dry heave a few times but then finally fell asleep. Until just before 6:00am that is. That is the glorious time that I was blessed to truly realize just how awful squatters are when one is ill. I must say that that is one reason I can understand western toilets.

All is well though. I am on the mend and ready for my next adventure...well so I thought until we found a baby lizard in our apartment!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

 Tuesday morning I woke up, got ready and drove to the airport where I said goodbye and went through security etc, and said my final goodbyes. I then boarded a plane to San Francisco where on top of my layover, we were further delayed because of the need to find a new aircraft. From there I flew fourteen hours to Hong Kong. They were the longest fourteen hours of my life.

 The plane was so squishy and uncomfortable. I made the mistake of eating one airplane meal and it was a bad made literally everyone who ate it became nauseous. I also could not find a comfortable position to sleep.

 When we arrived in Hong Kong we went to the ferry terminal and had to wait until the 9:45 ferry to mainland China. At that point, the floor of the airport was so comfortable. After about an hour and a half of waiting we finally boarded the ferry. It smelled so fishy.

 The ferry ride was approximately thirty minutes but I am not really sure because one minute I was looking out the window at the night sky and dark water and the next thing I knew we were docking.

 We then got our luggage which thankfully all of mine was there, and then we went through customs. Customs was a complete joke. They basically looked at our entry form and our passport, stamped it, and had us x-ray our bags and leave. Considering it was about 10:00 at night I think they just wanted to go home.

 We then waited a few minutes for our charter buses to come to take us all to our individual schools. For my school in Guzhen we were on the bus for about an hour and a half before we finally arrived at 2:30 am local time of Thursday. Our coordinator Bella met us by the bus and took us up to our apartment and told us we have fruit and bread for breakfast and that she would see us in the morning.

 So, we figured out rooming assignments and got ready for bed. Most of the girls just got into their pajamas and brushed their teeth and went to bed. I am far too high matinence so of course I unpacked my sheets, mattress pad, and set it all up. I then braved the toilet/shower and decided that I will not get a truly decent shower for the next four months so I'm going to have to just deal with that. Too bad I'm so obsessed with feeling clean.

 After showering, I then proceeded to cry and hate the fact that I was in China instead of in my own bed. I really miss my bed. Here my "bed" is basically a box spring with almost zero padding. So, I'm really glad I brought the foam pad even though it really doesn't do much it's still better than nothing. Also really glad that I brought my own sheets because I felt so comfortable.

 I only slept four hours before everyone woke up. I cried a lot, especially when I thought about Skyping my parents. So I didn't Skype them. We mostly stayed in the apartment until lunch time when Bella came to pick us up and show us to the school.

 The food was pretty good. We had rice (duh), lotus root (apparently super nutritional) and jalapeƱo peppers. I didn't eat that much of it because I felt sick and was so tired. Everyone at the school was very friendly.

 For dinner we went out to a Chinese restaurant with Bella and had fried noodles and rice. We all shared our plates and had maybe 10 bites of anything before we all felt full. So we went home and talked for a little while longer and then went to bed. I slept much better but still not good considering that my pillow is not much more than glorified quilt batting.

 This morning we all woke up between 4:00 and 6:00, and started our day. Which we probably shouldn't have because we are all ready to go to bed and it's barely 7:00 PM!

 After lunch we went over to the supermarket to buy things like shampoo, soap and things for the apartment. The supermarket was inside of this mall. We found some pillows for 18.8 yauen which is about $3.00 so of course I bought one. Ironically it matches my sheets and my towels. I also got this cute little cup with a happy frog on it.

 Later today we decorated our classroom which was really fun and got me excited for teaching. Apparently I can draw a really good talent!

 I have really come to like China-what I've seen of it that is. Walking to the supermarket we passed this really pretty park with a lily pond in the center and I want to run there every day.

So, even though I really didn't want to be here when I first got here, I really am falling in love with it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

 Hello! This is apparently what they call a blog. Seems like a strange place to pen ones thoughts but here goes.
 In a weeks time, I will be on a plane with a bunch of other girls who are all headed on the same adventure. Destination: The Mysterious East aka China.
 Though it seems at times that I was shanghaied into this (puns fully intended here) by one of my dear friends Rachel (she bugged me about it multiple times without peaking my interest and then one night she brought it up and a fire was lit inside me) this was my choice. I wanted adventure. I would do anything to get it.
 So, I started going through the application process for ILP. It went surprisingly smooth considering my late application. Everything fell into place. I was able to get accepted quickly, my passport was processed and I was able to get into the same group as my friend/captor for the same semester.

 God likes making things work when it's what He wants you to be doing.
 To say I am completely prepared for this great adventure would be an utter lie. I am not prepared for this at all. Sure I may have most of the items I need and I have most of my ducks in a row (still missing a few so if you see them please send them back, I miss my ducks) but I am not fully ready. How could I be? It is something completely new to me and though I can prepare in lots of ways I know I will still be that tacky American tourist who has her chin on the floor and her eyes looking like they are bulging out of her head. Despite having the same feeling as that dream when you're naked in a public place, I am really excited for the next four months.
 It will be an experience that will serve many purposes. I will be changed in many unknown ways, I will have fantastic memories with great people and scenery, and I will forever have something way better than you to talk about if I wanted to.
 So, "No shilly shallying, no dilly dallying, I'm off to China NOW!"