1. Nu Summit 2014!

    Well, after a series of frustrations, I finally wrapped up all of this year’s Nu Women’s Summit activities! Last year I brought a bunch of students from my women’s group to Neijiang for the summit, with other PCVs and their women’s groups from around Sichuan. This year we held the summit in Zigong. After working all semester towards attending with my students, in the end my school told me I couldn’t bring them. I was still able to attend and help out with all the activities in Zigong, which were a huge success, but I was really upset that I couldn’t bring my students.

    Not to be thwarted, though, we decided to hold our own event here in Nanchong, which went down this past weekend. We did yoga, played teambuilding games, made dream catchers and did a fun, women-themed scavenger hunt on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday morning the students did some presentations on great women, girls’ education around the world, and work/life/family balance. Then we had a couple teachers join us as guest speakers, to give the students some advice about starting their careers, being teachers, studying English, going abroad, and generally being successful women in China :) My friend, a recent graduate from my university who now has a great job at the top middle school in Chengdu and an all around awesome woman, came to join us. The other teacher runs her own training school here in Nanchong and she brought a bunch of her middle and high school students to listen, as well.

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    Then, after a lunch break, we went to volunteer at a school for the deaf. The students were all ages, and they live together at the school most of the time. My students did a great job communicating with them, typing things out on their phones or writing on papers and using simple signs. We brought paper and markers for them to draw, my students played badminton and jump rope with some of them, and I taught them how to make flowers out of plastic bags, which they got really excited about. It was really fun, and cool to see my students working with the kids and doing something outside of their comfort zone.

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    I forgot how much fun it is to work with kids :)

    Then, to cap off the weekend, we had some 干锅 (gan guo, “dry pot”) together for dinner. Oh, how I’ll miss 干锅…

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    Like I said, it was definitely a stressful and challenging process to pull off these events. I spent weeks worrying about dealing with my school, reworking our budget, finding speakers, and my students being too busy with their exams and other responsibilities to pull everything together and attend. But they exceeded all my expectations (as they always do) and I’m extremely proud of them for all their hard work. The women’s group has definitely been the most meaningful part of my experience here, and I’m very touched by their dedication to the group, their thoughtful insights during our activities and their constant positive energy. Just one of the things that’s making it hard to pack up and leave.

     
  2. two more weeks.

    It’s been a wild roller coaster ride. As I reach this end point, I’m definitely reflecting on the beginnings of this adventure. I’m busy, busy, busy and stressed, stressed, stressed, like I haven’t been since our Pre-Service Training. But I’m noticing, in little ways, how far I’ve come during the past two years in feeling comfortable navigating my unfamiliar surroundings. I’m ready for a new beginning, but I want to wrap this one up responsibly and meaningfully.

    And just like PST, I can’t seem to get a grip on my emotions. Familiar, persistent frustrations are butting up against joyous, sentimental moments. I’m irritable and angry one minute and grinning from ear to ear the next. There are a lot of things I’m ready to put behind me and a lot of things I hope I never let go of.

    Listening to my students give their pronunciation final, I feel like they haven’t absorbed anything I’ve tried to teach them and nothing will ever change, then I hear a couple students in a row who obviously made the effort to get it right. Planning activities for the end of the year with my women’s group, I feel like after everything we’ve done together and everything I’ve tried to expose them to, they still feel no sense of teamwork or commitment to this group, then I see one student who has put so much effort into an amazing presentation about girls’ education around the world and I notice them taking chances and stepping up in ways they probably wouldn’t have at the beginning of the year.

    Walking home from class the other day, a guy on a scooter came up to me and said something I didn’t understand. I smiled and said hello, and made some efforts to understand this stranger, like I usually do when greeted by people in the community. And then he started gesturing toward his dick, apparently under the impression that I would somehow be interested in joining this complete stranger to “play”. I told him off as best I could, but my language skills still weren’t good enough to fully express myself, and I had the distinct impression that he probably wouldn’t have approached a Chinese woman in this way. Feeling outraged and alienated, I continued my walk home. Then a car drove by and I heard my name, and I turned and saw my counterpart teacher waving at me out the window. She is one of the people I feel closest to here, and she never fails to put a smile on my face, and as I momentarily forgot my outrage, we made plans to go get our nails done together on Friday.

    (Source: allaboutchinese, via allaboutchinese)

     

  3. asiamericana:

    Frustration and anger bubbles in my chest like a pot of boiling water, eager to froth over the sides and extinguish the gas flame.

    Our school asked us to help judge a speech competition to determine who will be entered as a finalist in a provincial English competition.

    A clear winner was…

    Click through to keep reading this eloquent rant from another PCV in Sichuan. Thanks for writing this!

    Earlier this semester I got a text from one of my freshmen, and quiet girl I’ll call G. This is what she said:

    "Lindsay, can I ask you some questions? Why is appearance so important? I win the first prize in speech match last term. But they recommend a beautiful girl to continue match at school. I also suffer experience like it. I am so confused. Sisters discriminate me owing to appearance. So I worked hard so that I can be more excellent than them. Why? I am so tired. I hate someone. I only want to tell someone. Please keep the secret for me."

    I’ve watched her blossom this semester and become more confident. I’ve also watched her begin to put much more effort into her appearance, doing her hair and wearing jewelry and even some makeup. G is smart, honest, sweet and hardworking. I wish she didn’t have to stake so much of her success on her appearance.

    The cards are stacked against my students in so many ways. It’s pretty heartbreaking.

     
  4. smartgirlsattheparty:

    punc:

    awkwardsituationist:

    from girl rising …to consider on international women’s day (and every day thereafter)

    equality needs to be a goal that everybody actively works towards.

    Check out @girlrisng!!

    girls.

     

  5. 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.

     

  6. 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…

     

  7. 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.

     

  8. 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!

     

  9. 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)

     
  10. = mashed potatoes for lunch

    (Source: allaboutchinese, via allaboutchinese)