Well, as a foreigner in China, I guess I'm always "out there" in a way. Whether I want them to or not, people tend to notice me no matter if I'm wearing my wackiest outfit or just trying to buy some groceries in my sweatpants. Just kidding, I never wear sweat pants. But you get the gist. 

So I surprised even myself when I agreed to go on stage and literally take the spot light, intentionally putting myself under the scrutiny of a room full of Chinese people. And I had to do more than buy a bottled water. I sang. With my guitar! I am absolutely NOT a guitar player and never dreamed I would perform accompanying myself on one, but hey. Since when is life predictable? 
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Let's be honest. The main reason I was asked to do this was not because I proved myself a rock goddess on the guitar. It's because I'm a foreigner. I was at a casual English Corner at a local pub/cafe and there was a guitar floating around, so with my two beer confidence, I allowed myself to be pressured into playing a song. A few of the University students attending the English Corner were organizing a kind of End of Year Variety Show and as good as told me the students would get a kick out of seeing a foreigner onstage at their event. 
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So then there I found myself on December 22nd, in my holiday inspired outfit (that I wished I had gotten a better picture of), about to go onstage and perform my mediocre songs after a really surprsingly professional tight-knit, impressive show. It went okay! I did mess up one tiny time, and my friends in the audience (whom I must credit the photos to) said when I spoke I had on my "kindergarten teacher" voice. But I'm just happy I did it!  It made the true challenge to come later that week seem not so horrible: On Friday, I had to prepare 3 special lessons that the parents of my kindergartners and preschoolers would observe. That's a tale of nausea for a whole 'nother nightmare. 
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Let's just say it ended in icing covered faces and overall good cheer.
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Wedneday, December 15th
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9:00am
Put on lots of layers to face a cold cold day.

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10:00am
Made some flashcards. Used magic markers and my classy laminating system: packaging tape.

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11:00am
Got home from preschool and practiced guitar a little bit so as not to make too huge of an embarrassment out of myself at a talent show rehearsal.

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12:00pm
Steamed some veggies for lunch.

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1:00pm
Snowing outside. Bundled up extra warm to take a harrowing bike ride into the University area, where the aforementioned rehearsal was to take place.

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2:00
Finished rehearsal and walked back to the cafe with my friend, Andy (at whose behest I got mixed up in the whole talent show mess in the first place), to enjoy a hot drink before the ride home.

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3:00pm
Got home with just enough time to break into the new hot water heating pad I bought to replace the exploded one. I wasn't lying when I spoke of teddy bear heads in my last post!!

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4:00pm
Left the kindergarten as it began to get dark and saw these snowy flowers.

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5:00pm
Ate leftover vegetables in bed with a good show on the computer. Attempted to regain feeling in fingers and toes. 

The end!
 
 
Pronounced "yo may yo" it literally means "have/no have" and is one of the most useful bits of mandarin to know to find out if something is in a store/nearby/in someone's possession. I could kiss mandarin on the mouth for being so blessedly simple at times. No conjugating "be" verbs or even having to learn different pronouns for masculine and feminine; the language does not distinguish between male and female, everyone is just "ta." From my very very beginner's standpoint, it seems the grammar structures aren't terribly complicated either. Ever hear a Chinese person with broken English say things like "We no have. This no good. You like? You no like?"... well literally translated back into Chinese, that is how the sentence structure is supposed to be. I love it.

As you can probably imagine, there are some things from home that mei you in this lovely new land of mine, things that I missed at first but as time goes by, I don't really notice their absence. The first one would have to be Swiffer products, closely followed by Clorox Wipes. It used to be so easy to just run one of those dust collecting Swiffer papers over any surface in need of attention, or take a Clorox wet wipe to the counters after cooking and call it done. 
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I know it says "Green Works: natural" on the label, but let's be honest about the greenliness of these products. Maybe they're made from more environmentally gentle stuff than their generic counterparts, but at the end of the day they are still used once and thrown away. Pretty much the definition of waste. At first I bemoaned the fact that I had to clean with these prehistoric tools known as a broom and cloth, but really, if China and its 1.whatever billion population converted to the Swiffer religion, think of all the buildup of discarded one-use wipes the planet would see!

The other product I miss from home I can't forgive China so easily for lacking: Avocados!!! Avocados, glorious avocados, they invade my dreams while i sleep, my thoughts when I'm awake... I would do many immoral acts for a ripe avocado right now. Nicotine is easier to quit.
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Of course there are things we have here in China that America should really get on board with! Maybe we do have some of these things, but I've never seen them, and certainly not being sold on every corner like they are here!


Super genius invention number 1: 
The insect murdering racket. You plug it into the wall, then use it to electrocute all those elusive pests. 
The bugs sizzle up with a satisfying zap of light. 
So much easier and deadlier than your average fly swatter.
This thing is incredible. 
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2. Plug-in hot water bag. 
These bags of water come in cute shapes and colors and are sold in EVERY SINGLE STORE, I kid you not. Basically, you plug it in to the outlet, wait for it to boil up and get all warm, then sit with it in your lap or hands, or put it under your blankets by your feet. Toes go from ice cubes to bugs in a rug in no time. Make sure not to go for the cheapest one, though... The one pictured here kind of blew up on me shortly after this photograph so I may have to upgrade to an adorable teddy bear head.
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3. The sleeve protectors.
I admit, I was a bit confused when I saw these at first, thinking they looked kind of silly, but really they are one of the simplest most useful inventions! I've seen my kids wearing them to do painting projects, and butchers wearing them in the food markets, and cleaners using them to scrub. I've seen people wearing them when they ride their bikes, and they make excellent wind breakers and add a little extra protection from the elements. I like them because I don't have to worry about rolling up my sleeves and keeping them rolled up while I cook and get gunk on my hands and try to pull them up with my teeth.... what a mess. 
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In short, part of moving to a new culture has been to accept the you mei you's that come along with it. Sure, I'd probably stand naked in the snow for the promise of an avocado right about now, but for the most part, the things they have far outweigh the things they no have. Score for China!
 
 
I find it so hard to write when I don't feel like things are going my way. I'd like to blame the weather and culture shock, but are these excuses becoming worn down? I feel worn down. I think I complain about my health a lot on this blog, but really, I haven't had a full week of good health since arriving in China. Maybe it's the air quality. I've adopted the chic look of the surgical mask for when I'm on scooter rides, and they sell them all over the place in all kinds of cute patterns. It could be the fact that I work in a germ factory, where I often find myself looking into a pair of crusty nostrils as I repeat a pronunciation. And it could also have something to do with my diet. 

I don't exactly miss Western food... I'm not sitting here drooling over memories of some favorite dish or wishing the local super market would magically start stocking any particular thing. But I miss the whole tradition of Western dining as a whole. The attitude of being able to "have it your way" (is that Subway or Burger King?) is literally foreign in China. You don't go messing with the set menu in an establishment, not without pushing against considerable friction and bafflement on the  part of the cooks and servers. Even if you do have the energy to take on explaining how you want your meal prepared, you're likely to be served the food the way the chef thinks it ought to be made regardless what you asked. This gets tiring when I often find myself eating with people who don't want spicy food, because it seems like the cooks see "no spicy" as the same as "a little spicy".... to them, it's hard to imagine the food with no spicy, it's just wrong, I'm sure! 


It's hard to get a fresh salad here, almost impossible. I think it has to do with the idea that cold foods are bad for digestion? But this results in every meal being heavily oiled. Also, as I said, it's hard to control what goes into your food, it's not as simple as saying "hold the mustard" so I know for a fact I am consuming all kinds of MSG and artificial flavoring when I used to enjoy the taste and health benefits of raw or barely-seasoned food. Also, Chinese eat complex carbs for almost every meel. Don't get me wrong, fresh noodles are about the most delicious thing known to man, but they aren't good for the waistline or nutrition when enjoyed in excess. 
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This is one of my favorite noodle dishes to order, especially on a cold cold day. The soup it's in tastes kind of cilantro and cinnamony. I also consider it somewhat nutritional because it's got a lot of green veggies and an egg. Yes, doused in oil and seasoning, but relatively speaking, it's better than a lot of options.

I should probably cook more but all I have to cook with is a hot plate, so I'm limited to boiling and frying. And I just don't have the energy to go out and barter for the vegetables, clean them, cook, clean the dishes...

I know I sound like a terrible complainer today. It's easy to be a complainer on days like this. It's so cold, I'm too chicken to go outside to find lunch. I'm sitting here, munching on peanuts, wishing I could just spread some hummus on some whole wheat bread and be done with it. But I need to lighten up! I mean, oh, poooor meee, I'm in another country shopping my heart out having adventures but there are no sandwiches! Boo hoo! 

And I totally forgot to mention that there is some amazing sushi around here. There is a kind of restaurant where you pay 100 rmb per person and it's all you can eat and all you can drink!!!!! It's amazing!!! But only on rare occasions because a meal normally costs more like 10 rmb. We ate at one such place over the weekend and it was deeeeelightful. Now I guess I'm gonna suck it up and go eat some rice.
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