1. I was walking to class this afternoon when I looked up and saw what I thought was a big bird of prey. My heart leaped a little. After I figured out that it wasn’t a bird but, in fact, a kite, I wondered why my heart had leaped like that.

    Probably because I’m pretty sure it would have been the first non-dog-or-cat animal I had seen in months?

    Sometimes China’s environmental problems actually seem real.

     

  2. It’s all happening…

    …the end is near! Two years almost up, and it doesn’t feel quite real, but maybe typing it all out will help me come to grips.

    The other night I opened an email to find my official Close of Service date, June 20th. I’ll be leaving China shortly thereafter, and I have a couple weeks of fun in the sun in Bali in mind, then I should be back in the US around the beginning of July.

    July will be a big month of stuffing my face full of burritos, road trips to say hello to friends and readjusting to life on American terms.

    Then! Grad school! I’ll be moving to Boston in August and starting my MA in Sustainable International Development at Brandeis. Feels really good to have a plan, to be going back to school, to be going to Boston…I’m beyond excited!

    First I have to figure out how to pick up and leave China, though. I never thought China would be another one of the places I’d call home. As excited as I am to go back to the US and start the next phase of my life, there’s some trepidation as well.

    Things I know I’ll find myself missing, in no particular order: hearing grandmothers teaching their baby grandchildren to call me “ayi” (auntie); my lovely little house; the feeling of pride I get when my students kill it on their presentations or assignments; how hard I laugh in class when my students do hilarious and creative things; three day weekends; not having to care at all about money; feeling all the feelings when students say amazingly insightful and touching things during women’s group discussions; 干锅; the relentless generosity of my Chinese friends; the feeling of support and camaraderie among volunteers; how excited everyone gets about seasonal fruit; 柠檬水 on a warm spring afternoon…

     

  3. Really beautiful stuff from some of my favorite fellow PCVs. My belated 2 cents:

    They hint during the Peace Corps interview process that you will struggle with loneliness. What they don’t tell you is that you might go for weeks without real human touch. And suddenly it will hit you that the thing you want most in the whole world isn’t cheese or a good cup of coffee, but a good, long, soul stirring hug. And (overshare) in the absence of that, you might go pay for a 35 kuai massage just to feel some human contact.

    But. One of the nicest things as a female volunteer in China is your access to the privileged world of female friendship. Even the most casual of girlfriends here hold hands as they walk around on campus or walk arm-in-arm as they cross the street. At first, to be honest, I found this practice extremely awkward. But I learned to embrace it- if I wasn’t experiencing real embraces, I could take comfort in these small expressions of closeness.

    Then. As I was falling into one of my it’s-been-to-long periods and reflecting on the unavoidable importance of contact this week, I was walking home from my Women’s Group meeting Sunday night when I heard someone shout my name. “Lindsay!” said one of my old students, as I looked up to see her literally running across the street to greet me. And then, the unexpected: she wrapped me up in a big hug. 

    Now, for all their friendly hand-holding, people in China are not down with hugs. I have hugged some close female friends and members of my host family, but it was always initiated by me and they were usually very awkward about it, as if they weren’t really sure what was going on or why or how to respond- do I put my arm here or here, do I really lean in or maintain some space, do I fully face her or try to stay slightly turned away?

    So. I have no idea what inspired this full blown hug from this student who I hadn’t seen since the year before. There are many possible explanations. But she was acting perfectly naturally, as if in that moment there wasn’t anything else to do, and I like to think that something in her soul of souls was simply responding to mine. And something in my soul of souls released and melted a little.

     

  4. dinoterror:

    evergreen12:

    asiamericana:

    Just found this interesting slideshow while doing some research on my lesson plan for International Women’s Day.  It covers a broad swath of experiences for women here in China, and is definitely worth a gander.

    This is a great article, but it leaves out the women that I know here in my town. Someone like Rheena, my closest friend who collects teapots and wants to start a worm-bin on her balcony. She is 5 months pregnant and plays the piano every day for her baby. Or my host mom, who grew up in the countryside and went to school to be a nurse. She taught herself English and learned it well enough to pass the exam to become a teacher, and she is currently teaching herself to be a math teacher as well. While teaching and taking care of her parents and 2-year old son. Or Lily, the woman who is charge of my well-being at school, who is furnishing a new apartment for her family (husband, son, parents) while working in the office and teaching English and dealing with the crazy foreigner’s (me) broken internet and helping me start the English library on campus. My department is pretty much all women, they are my closest friends here, they cook badass dinners pretty much every day, they drive cars and drink wine, and they are spectacular.

    This is one of those articles that I think could be infinitely reblogged throughout China. It leaves out my friend’s mother, who’s not her biological mother but instead took in my friend in when her family gave her up and raised her to be her own strong woman and supports her efforts to go on to graduate school and maybe one day go abroad. This doesn’t talk about my friend who works so hard every day to make sure her high schoolers are supported and loved and sticks up for the closeted gay kids that everyone else bullies. It skips over my friends who look around and say, “I’ve got to get out of here and experience something else” and others who see the same things and say, “I’ve got to stay here because I’m needed here the most.” 

    These ladies are my world, as are so many more, and I wish I could share each and every one of their stories. 

    Beautiful words from some of the talented other PCVs here in China. And a pretty nice piece from Marie Claire on the women of China.

    Happy International Women’s Day from China!! 妇女节快乐!

     

  5. Gearing up for a big weekend of International Women’s Day celebration with the students in my women’s group! I’ve got a celebration at my house planned for Saturday afternoon then the first official meeting of the semester to welcome some new freshmen into the group.

    (Source: peacecorps)

     
  6. = mashed potatoes for lunch

    (Source: allaboutchinese, via allaboutchinese)

     
  7. I went to Yibin after Spring Festival to visit a couple students. I stayed with Helen (in the yellow) and her family for a few days at their house (white building in the first photo) in a small town outside of the city. We also visited the Bamboo Sea, a huge bamboo forest famous for being featured in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It was freezing and wet the whole time, but the students were so sweet and excited and their families were so gracious that it didn’t even matter.

     

  8. allaboutchinese:

    108 Chinese New Year Greeting Phrases and Sentences!
    by All about Chinese

    Happy Chinese New Year everyone! Today I gather some interesting phrases and sentences that are heard during the Chinese New Year. And of course you can use them to greet your family, your friends, your boss or even…

    Who thinks they can get all these down by Thursday?? Better get down to business…

     
  9. natgeofound:

    Chinese cyclists ride their bicycles through a square in Chengdu, July 1981.Photograph by Jodi Cobb, National Geographic

    now there’s a starbucks across the way. and all the luxury brands down the street.

     

  10. I JUST WANNA DANCE

    I was feeling pretty disheartened this week about my women’s group. I was trying to get them to provide some ideas about the topic for our meeting this week (to promote shared ownership of the group, and sustainability, so it’s not just me yammering and shoving my feminist agenda down their throats…) and all I got out of them in our qq group was: “hair…you know, hairstyles…and different kinds of colors…” I gently told them it might be hard to have a conversation about hair for an hour, and said we’d talk again the next day.

    So I came back and this time they said things about “career and family”, which is always a rich topic so I got excited and jumped on that and sent them an article I had pulled from another PCV’s women’s group info called “Do not marry before you’re 30”, advice from a Chinese woman about finding your passion, starting your career, and choosing a partner wisely. In case you didn’t know, there is the idea in China that a woman has to marry before she’s 27 lest she become “leftover” and no one will want to marry her and she’ll die alone and a disgrace to her family. Heavy stuff that girls hear all over the media and from their families. So what’s a girl to do if she wants to pursue a career or an advanced degree? Or if she hasn’t met the right person and instead marries the man in front of her because he has a house and a car, but will treat her badly, cheat on her, and the like?

    There’s a lot more to the issue and the girls in the meeting opened up right away about what they hear on the issue from their families and friends- they all said they had friends from home who had married right after high school and already had families. These 20 year olds worry way more about marriage than me and my friends ever did when we were 20 (we were too busy planning our next tequila party…), but they’ve been given the chance to go to university and should have all the choices in the world in front of them.

    So we had a really good talk during the meeting, but the thing that sent me over the edge with warm fuzzies was that after the meeting, I got a series of texts from one of the students: “lindsay, i call you to say thanks to u. today the discussion is meaning to me. it gives me a chance to think again…i am glad to get out of my narrow world to think more. it helps me cheer up. forget my so called trouble. so thank u. that’s awesome, what you did and what you are trying to do for us…you are making your students lives difference…yes, i would like to know more about the world. i will. thank u, lindsy, u are so sweet. you are a Real teacher. not only the English, also the life”

    HOLY MOLY (not sure how qualified I am to be a “teacher of life” but I guess I can shine it on). That was the most meaningful thing I’ve heard in a while, and was just what I needed to get motivated again. Then I went to participate in a student performance tonight and saw a bunch of my old students from last year being adorable and hilarious and the warm fuzzies just kept growing.

    So it was a dance around in my underwear kind of night when I got home And ohmygoshilovethisIJUSTWANNADANCE: http://24hoursofhappy.com/