Qing Ming update

Hello everyone! Spring is finally starting to peak through! I’ve started classes again. We celebrated my birthday, whic was great! On my birthday, the building manager made me hand made noodles, because you are supposed to eat long noodles on your birthday to have a long life, and she made sure that I knew I was not supposed to eat rice. I didn’t exactly understand her explanation, but she kept saying rice, and putting her fingers together, so I’m pretty sure since rice is so small, if you eat it on our birthday you will have a short life. Needless to say, I did not eat rice on my birthday!!! On the weekend, I went with my friends to KTV. I had heard about it but never experienced it, and decided that my birthday was the perfect time!! KTV is kareoke, but you have your own private room so no one can hear you sing… The Chinese are very serious about their singing…. People go sit by themselves for hours and just sing!!! It was a blast, and we laughed at all the crazy English songs they had to choose from!
Classes have been going well, I have mostly the same students, and that’s nice!
The craziest thing that has happened lately is that I cracked my tooth, had to go to the dentist, and ended up needing a root canal!!! I was super scared about having a root canal in China, where I wouldn’t know what was going on…. The dentist said that right then they were going to take away the pain. I didn’t know that meant they were going to do the root canal right then and there until they were half way through! So it ended up being a lot better than I imagined. I have been teaching the dental assistants English words for things, and they have been teaching me the Chinese.
This weekend is 请 明, which is read Qing (Ching) Ming, and means tomb sweeping festival. It is a time to remember the dead, and clean those graves after winter. It also means 3 day weekend so I am off to meet some friends in Qingdao, a city that was settled by Germans, across the bay. If any of you have ever drunk Tsing Tao beer, very popular in Chinese restaurants, this beer is from Qingdao. I’m hoping to get to use my German this weekend, and I’m excited to see another part of china!
Lots of Love and belated Happy Easter!!
Ash

Bangkok!

So I spent the last week seeing the sights that Bangkok has to offer. There are many many amazing temples, and the architecture is different from western style, but also Chinese style. The one bad thing about the temples or other tourist sights is they are jam packed with tourists. So I did the major sights, but I really lucked out because I’m staying with our former exchange student, Jew and she was able to give me a tour of Thailand that only a native could. We have been eating street food… My favorite is grilled pork skewers with sticky rice, or anything covered in coconut milk. We also went bike riding in the park, and I saw a 3 foot lizard on the side of the road!!!!
Now I’m on Phuket, which is an island off the western coast of southern Thailand, in the adaman sea. It’s beach time!!!! We flew in tonight, so tomorrow the exploring begins!
Lots of love, Ash

Pictures continued

So I’m adding all of these from my phone, and I meant to hit delete but I accidentally hit send…. So all of those pictures are from my trip to Hua Hin. It was a blast!!!!! We got to play in the ocean. We rented this thing called a banana boat, which is basically a long stretched out inner tube that is yellow and looks like a banana. It’s hooked up to the back of a jet ski, so the guy pulled us along while all 6 of us held on, and more often than not, flew into the ocean! It was a blast! Didn’t get any pictures, but I got pictures of everything else!!!!
We went to a night market, and a floating market, which is a market in boats!!!!!!
I’m eating and drinking anything I can get my hands on that tastes even a little bit like coconut!!!!! Yuummmm!!!
Hope you enjoy the pictures!!!
I couldn’t figure out how to caption each one so if you have a question just ask!

Thailand pictures!

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Touchdown!!! …in Thailand!

So as everyone back in the states is getting ready for Superbowl weekend, I am getting ready for a Super vacation!!!! hehehe these puns are sure fun!
After Beijing, I went to visit some friends in Dongying, Shandong province… the city sits on an oil field and is basically the west Texas of China, so we didnt do sight seeing, but it was a lot of good hang out with friends time! The I had 10 days back in Dalian, which is like an icy tundra…..
Yesterday I woke up early, went to the airport in 20 F (-6C) weather…. flew to Guangzhou, which is in southern China, switched flights, and now I’m in Bangkok!!!
Our family hosted an exchange student from Thailand 4 years ago, Jew, and she is playing the role of amazing tour guide!!! She arranged for me to be able to rent an apartment in her apartment building for the month, because I am staying in Thailand for the whole month of February. It’s super cheap, much much cheaper than staying at a hotel, and its perfect because I can use it as my base for all my travels. I brought my backpack with me too, so I can leave most of my things here, and then just pack what I need for my trip in my backpack and go! So I’m definitely going to see more of Thailand than just Bangkok! Tonight we are going to Saraburi, Jew’s hometown, to meet her parents. Then tomorrow we, along with Jew’s best friend Sandy and Sandy’s friends who are visiting from Korea, are all going to go down to Hua Hin, which is a beach town south of Bangkok. if you look at a map, Bangkok is pretty close to the sea, and its at the top of this huge bay. Thailand then stretches out south in two arms that travel down pretty long. Hua Hin is on the western arm. I’m super excited!!! Another thing about Thailand is everyone is your “uncle” or “aunt” and because of this, Thai people have a connection to everyone!!!! The apartment building I am living in is owned by Jew’s aunt, who in reality is her Grandmother’s sister’s daughter (saying aunt is sooooo much easier) so that’s why I was able to get an apartment cheaply for just the month! Sandy’s “aunt” just happens to own or run (I’m not sure which) the biggest resort in Hua Hin, where the prime ministers and celebrities stay. Normally, it would be way far beyond our budget range, but because of all these “aunt and uncle” connections, we get to stay there!!!!!!!
If you can’t tell I’m super excited about this trip! its nice to be out of the cold!! Also, Thailand is not restrictive about their internet, so I can get on websites like my blog page and facebook without having to use internet magic!! yay!!!!! So hopefully I will be able to post pictures on here!!! I will be posting to fb too, but those of you that don’t have fb, I will post them on here too!!!!!
Hope everyone is well, enjoy the superbowl!!! Apparently the trailer for the 6th Fast and Furious movie is going to be shown during it….. I love those movies, so if I was home I would watch for that reason alone!
Lots of Love, Ash

I’m Mulan!!!!

Today is Great wall day!!!!!
Yes I am posting more, I want to share all my travels! Plus with my handy dandy iPhone I can write these posts wherever, and save them, and then just post when I get Internet. Today started off early, but I’ve realized Chinese girls take longer to get ready than American girls…. So by the time everyone was ready, it was 9am… So we headed out. We took the subway, got lost on the subway, made it to the train station, then found out we had to wait 2 hours for the next train to Badaling, which is the closest part of the Great Wall to Beijing. There are many sections you can see, but the one you see all the pictures of is Badaling. So we spent 2 hours walking around the mall attached to the train station. I amazed the girls with my skills In finding sales… And I found a necklace that says Epic Fail on sale for 10 rmb. ($1.50) I love the things that the Chinese choose to write. There are clothes that have the most ridiculous phrases on them, and are even full of curse words. The Chinese have no idea what they mean, they just wear them because it’s English. Makes me giggle.
Now we are on the train that is taking us through the suburbs, headed to the mountains. It’s gorgeous!!
I’ve been walking around singing I’ll Make a Man Out of You (from the movie Mulan, for those of you not versed in Disney movie soundtracks). Thanks to Whit-bit, I know the 1st part, and the bridge…..
The wall was amazing. I am finishing this post the next day, because I was so exhausted from all the climbing and picture taking!!! It was truly an amazing site to see. And every time we walked walked up a steep hill, I would think if I don’t like climbing this, imagine building it!!!! It was a chance to both marvel at the amazing architecture, and be goofy. I definitely posed like Kung Fu Panda and took a picture. We also made Zach a happy birthday video. That was fun!!! ( if you haven’t seen it o Facebook or through mom and dad, and would like to see my friends singing Happy Birthday in Chinese and part of the Great Wall, let me know and I can email it to you!)

Today we went to Ti’annamen square, the forbidden city, and the Silk Street Makret. Needless to say, I’m attempting to check off every tourist attraction in the 3 days I’m here! Ti’annamen was insane. The amount of people there to look lovingly at Mao’s picture was astounding. The weather was very foggy, and I found it very eery. While the Chinese people think about what they know, all the good things from that Era, I kept thinking about what we learn, which is the Ti’annamen square massacre, and negative things about that era.
After that, we walked along to the forbidden city. The palace goes on, and on, and on, and when you think you have made it to the end…. Opp there’s another building. Once again, I marveled at the architecture. The buildings here are so amazingly different, I can’t help but just stand there and wonder how two vastly different cultures, Eastern culture and Western culture could have developed on the same planet. Then to think about the different cultures within the incredibly vague category of east or west is just mind boggling. The more I see here, especially the ancient sights, the more I learn to appreciate how different people are, and how our differences can create so many amazing things.
Seeing a different part of China is really making it clear how different everything is, and it’s awesome.
Of course there are the negative differences too. I was looking at a stone sculpture inlaid on a ramp to a building, and a little boy started peeing on it, because his mom pointed him in that direction.
The friends friend that I am staying with has been eating spicy duck intestine, and every day she asks of I would like some, and every day I say oh no thank you, I don’t like spicy food. Because that’s better than saying I can’t quite wrap my mind around eating intestine.
The Silk Market was also very cool. It used to be the silk market, and now it’s just where all the tourists go to buy things. My friend from Dalian has a lady there that she gets freashwater pearls from, and asked me to get her necklace repaired. I went not intending to buy anything, but it’s sooo incredibly cheap!! Necklaces of “potato pearls” ( misshapen but so cool!) for the equivalent of about 3 dollars. sign me up! My Chinese friend and I had fun going around and haggling…. They would give us an extravagant price, we would say um no, I would work them about them half way down, and then Pei Pei would jump in in Chinese and get them down to the price we wanted. For example, I wanted to get a silk wall hanging. They said 280 rmb. I said uhhhh no. My friend said 50. They looked mortified, then quickly jumped down to 130. After quite a bit more back and forth, we got 2 for 120. ( like $17) we were very proud of ourselves!!!!!! I don’t have my mothers talent for haggling but we made quite a good team!!!
Now it’s time for me to crash and get ready for day 3 of the Beijing adventure. Make sure you read both posts, it took 2 days for the 1st one to actually post after I wrote it so it’s not an accident they they ate posted like half an hour apart!
Lots of love, Ash

Beijing!!!!!!

As I write this, I’m sitting on a bus in the Chinese capital…. I finally got brave enough to leave Dalian. Well I was brave because 2 of my advanced students so graciously offered to come with me and show me around!
We started off from the Train station. True to Chinese style, there was a huge group of people standing in a waiting area. So we put down our bags and were just waiting. Due to my obliviousness and the fact I don’t understand anything being said around me, all of a sudden there was a push forward and the girls said grab your stuff! We are going!! So the nice huge mob surged forward, with no line or anything. I’ve accepted the fact that being polite is rather to push the people in front of you, instead of letting someone go in front of you, because by pushing the person in front of you, they get there faster! After I was swept through the gate, we made our way to the train.
In China, there is no such thing as capacity or fire hazard laws, so when they sold out of seats on the train, they started to sell standing tickets…. For a 12 hour train ride!!! My group had the misfortune to get such tickets, so we had to get a little creative to find seats. I made peanut butter sandwiches to show the girls something American, and we kept making jokes that I could trade American food for a seat. We ended up meeting a girl that was from the same small town as the other of of my students traveling with us, and she said we could share seats.
The amount of people on the train without seats astounded me! I was also very surprised, everyone was so friendly! People would scoot over to fit an extra person on their bench, or take a turn standing. People brought little camp stools, we even used a bag of blankets to sit on. Everyone would camp out in the isle. About every hour the snack cart would come through, and everyone would have to clear the isle…. It was crazy, suddenly people were stacked up on top of each other!
About half way through the trip, a group got brave enough to want to talk to me in English. They very graciously pulled me into one of the seats, and wouldn’t let me leave for the rest of the trip…. I had to fight and promise to come back just to go to the bathroom!!! It was fun to talk to them, and they all wanted to take their picture with me.
The train ride was 12 hours, and I slept 2… By the time we got to Beijing and found Aubrey’s friends home, it was 7 am! So day 1 of Beijing was spent sleeping, going to the supermarket, and going to one of the universities to visit Another friend of the girls.
Their friend treated us to this very nice dinner with fish stew, and caramelized sweet potatoes (which are my new favorite food, it was literally sweet potatoes swimming in caramel….. Delicious!!!!!!)
Lots of love from the train celebrity :)

Merry Christmas – Chinese style

I might have mentioned before but Christmas isn’t an officially celebrated holiday in China. It’s not like their festival days where the whole world shuts down and everyone eats dumplings or its bad luck. But they still have their own “almost-but not quite” way of Celebrating Christmas. You can find decorations places, and shop workers wear Santa hats, especially in places where there might be westerners, and friends give each other presents, which are almost always an apple or orange, both or which will be enormous and lavishly wrapped. It’s like they almost celebrate Christmas, but not quite. This Christmas, I had every intention of celebrating Christmas to the full extent, the western way, but it ended up being Almost, but not quite!
My friend and I took an epic shopping trip to Ikea and Metro ( a German grocery store kind of like Costco). We went to Ikea so I could get Swedish food for Swedish Christmas evening, and then Metro because that’s the best place to get western food here. We got a rack of lamb and some cheese, and planned the whole dinner. Christmas eve came and I prepared the Swedish food. My stomach was a little queasy, but I didn’t think much of it, and a couple of my colleagues came for dinner. We had a great time but I still felt queasy. When I woke up Christmas morning, I had the full fledged stomach- virus of the century and it was stuck on “attack Ashley” mode! I had to miss yummy rack of Lamb for Christmas dinner!!! I missed spending time with my friends too. I went and got medicine Wednesday morning, and by Thursday I was able to eat bread, and ramen noodles, and today (Friday) I’m almost back to my normal self. It was the most random virus I’ve had! And because of that, I celebrated Christmas almost…. But not quite! The Chinese way!!!!
I am much better now, and those couple days I was sick I was so so happy to have Skype to be able to talk to home with. I was worried about being homesick for Christmas, and then I got actual sick and forgot about homesickness! So it worked out!
Celebrating any major holiday anywhere away from your family is always hard, but I am so incredibly thankful for having the technology to be connected to my family so much that it’s not nearly as far away.
The point of this point was to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, even if it’s a couple days late. I hope everyone is enjoying themselves, wherever they may be!
Have a happy happy New Year!!
Lots of love from the land of pointless Santa hats, Ashley

The end of the world… So far so good!!

So today is the last world, and speaking as someone who lives in the future, so far everything is great! One thing that this fateful day has brought is a great lesson! This afternoon I talked to both of my classes about this myth, and what they think about it. In my more advanced class, we did an activity where they had to pretend the world would be destroyed in a year ad say how they would spend that year. It is a pretty cool activity, there were a lot of creative activities. The Chinese students spend their whole school lives memorizing and regurgitating information, so when I ask them to give their opinions or use their imaginations, they all look at me with a look that is a mix of excitement, shock, and horror!! It’s pretty amusing. But after the 17th week of classes, they are getting more used to it.
It is still pretty cold, and one amazing fashion trend that I am totally behind is furry long johns! Here most of the long johns have this fuzzy lining, and that extra 1/4 inch of insulation makes a difference!!
The way I found out about fuzzy long johns and leggings is that the international office of my school asked me come to the office. I was pretty confused but I walked over and they said merry Christmas! We have a gift for you! I accepted the bag, said my thanks, and took it home. When I got home I unpacked it and it was purple fuzzy long johns. And they ALMOST fit! Things here are made for the Chinese body type, so when I put the whole ensemble on the legs and the sleeves were an inch too short, and there was an inch or two uncovered around my middle, but they still kept me much warmer than normal! I then went to the little shop down the street where the owner speaks some English, and she had a pair of fuzzy leggings that fits perfectly. I’m in heaven. Best invention ever!
Here, Christmas is not an official holiday. We still have school, and I’m actually giving an exam on both Christmas Eve and Christmas day. But they know about Christmas, and they Still give gifts to their friends and teachers. Its pretty nice! So far I have gotten the long johns, some Hershey’s kisses, a bottle of juice that I think might be cherry juice, and an apple. Apparently the most popular gift to give at Christmas is an orange or apple, and it comes in this special box!
I know Christmas this year will be very different, but it will definitely still be special!
Lots of love from the land of fuzzy leggings, Ashley

I’m an Ashley-sicle!

So firstly I should let everyone know that China has been slowing the Internet and changing the way it works for about the past month so most of the time it is too slow to access American websites, so Posts on my blog are sporadic! But I did realize that instead of writing posts on my computer and then hoping the Internet works, I can write them on my phone and then post them when I find wifi. Wifi in the city works much better than my Internet out at the school, any my students seem to think this is because of the airport, and interfering signals.
Winter has come to Dalian! It has snowed a few times, and usually the snow melts in a couple days, right in time for the next thin coating to come blanket the city. Lately it’s been about 20-30F, which isn’t awful except we are right where the wind from Siberia comes down to blow into the sea…. So if it’s windy out, it’s miserable!! I quickly realized i needed warmer shoes, and begrudgingly joined the masses of people wearing Ugg boot knock offs… And it turns out they are super warm! And to make it better, the pair I found is covered in black sequins, so at least my feet sparkle as I trudge through the Siberian wind!
Last weekend I met up with 3 of my very good North American friends ( 1 Canadian and 2 other Americans) and we cooked a Holiday feast!! We all wanted to make our favorites and as a result we ended up with enough food to easily feed 12 people!! We got a turkey, and baked it in the oven. Now kitchens here don’t have ovens, so if you want one you need to get one that looks a lot like the toaster oven I grew up with. The friend we cooked with has a huge toaster oven, and it fit the 16 lb Turkey in, but it took double the calculated cook time, so instead of eating at 4, we ate at 9… Just enough time for a good game of Scrabble.
I have been having fun telling my students about Christmas and showing pictures of my parents Christmas tree. Christmas here is not an offficial holiday, so it’s more for friends and fun, than the big holiday we know it as. I am also giving my students exams now, as it’s coming to the end of term, and I keep telling my Tuesday intermediate class that they got the lucky day because their exam is on Christmas day!
My Chinese is steadily getting better and better. I don’t feel like such a fish out of water anymore. My vocabulary had grown to include alright, I don’t understand, and I am a teacher!
Hopefully my posts will be more frequent soon, but until then I hope you enjoy my stories! Lots of love, Ashley

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