Sunday, December 30, 2018

2019: China's Year of the Pig

"Pigs have a beautiful personality and 
are blessed with good fortune in life."

2019 is the year of the PIG in Asia. Over there, it's a beautiful thing.
However, let me pause a moment to express my gratitude for being born under LAST YEAR'S sign? 
Let's face it, DOGS (mine, especially) are so much cooler than pigs.
 I've just never been big on pigs. 
The only mural I've ever accepted, which featured this animal, was for a BBQ place. 
This image is what I painted on the men's room. 
(There were more, including a flying pig and a burlesque sow for the ladies' room). 
The t-shirts sold by the place had this on the back:
"PETA: people who enjoy tasting animals."
That's what pigs are: food that I love but shouldn't eat too often.
Born to be food.
But China, or at least, the emperor who started all this, didn't see it that way.
While, according to that link I posted earlier, pigs showed up late to the emperor's party,
and so became the 12th zodiac symbol, they remain symbols of wealth.

Born in 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, or 2007?
Have a chubby little piglet due to be born in 2019?

According to the pig zodiac sign, you're born to be rich and enjoy the good things in life!
Each year has a slightly different fortune associated with it, so have fun and check it out.
As 2018 ends, and 2019 begins, it seems like a good idea
to leave behind what we don't want in our lives and reach for what we want.
Most Asian countries celebrate the new year based on the lunar calendar,
but Japan celebrates it when we do. Also like Europeans and Americans,
it's customary, through out all of Asia, to drink--A LOT. Not just on New Year's Eve,
but during the week leading up to the new year.
There are other customs, which make a lot of sense, however,
which I kind of wish EVERYONE would adopt.
After gathering for a customary feast in the home of their birth with family,
people close their doors for up to a week. Why?
The dawn of the new year should be greeted with a clean face.
Businesses, schools and homes get thoroughly CLEANED and repaired: おそじ。
This seems to be a particularly honored tradition in Japan,
which is why I'm posting the following image and typed
the Japanese word for "to clean" as "osoji" in hiragana.

How cool would it be, in the year of the pig, if we each start our new year by doing something like that?
CLEANING, organizing and so forth, to give 2019 a fresh new face, and make way for good fortune!
Here's wishing you a prosperous, healthy and happy 2019:
The Year of the Pig!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Punkin Patch in North Logan

Autumn is in the air, here in Logan, UT.  This is the time of year that lots of people carve pumpkins, cook and can veggies and fruit. Want a good place to find fresh pumpkins and squash at a GREAT price? This is it.  Take 2200 N to 800 E right after you've crossed into N. Logan, and go left.  You'll see a huge variety off to your left, piled up on the sidewalk, in front of a cute little white house.  Picked locally, everything's fresh.  
I keep finding so many reasons why!
To get there, drive East on 2200 N. in N. Logan and turn North on 800 East. 
The place is surrounded by trees and fields...this is why Logan still feels rural, 
despite our dramatic population increase in the past 2-3 years.

This cute little white house has offered this Punkin Patch for at least 10 years, 
because that's when I first found it.
Linus would love this place:
Such a big variety of pumpkins and squash!
Did you know there's such a thing as a "flat" white pumpkin? 
...or what's called "pink" and "blue" pumpkins, too?
These are huge "blue" pumpkins.
Prettiest varieties of acorn squash, sweet pumpkins for baking, spaghetti squash...
Now that I remember where this place is, I'll get more produce there.
There aren't very many places anymore where payments are made using the honor system. 
 There's a red metal box to drop cash or a check in. 
Recently, they've made Venmo an option, too.   
This isn't actually unusual in Logan.  
Despite it's recent dramatic growth spurt, 
Logan maintains a small town atmosphere of trust and friendliness.  
I liked Cache Valley when I visited 15 years ago, and as time goes by, 
the reasons why just multiply!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Editing, Mind Mapping, Wedding, Work...

About what I do here, I haven't written a whole heck of a lot, have I?  The past 2 months have been filled with 12 hour days and major changes. While foreign teachers seem to come and go quickly, the curriculum team members are the ones I spend most of my time with and they're amazing. I prefer teaching just a couple classes online a day, because there's so much to do in curriculum.  I need the teaching to keep my mind in what it's like for those who are teaching, but it's not my "thing."  Not this kind of teaching anyway, which has filled my head with ideas of how to improve...

This blog (sorry--I've mostly been posting on Google and Facebook) is dedicated to work and those I work with.  Where would any of us be w/o underpaid, overworked Amy and "Money?"  Teacher Trainers, by title, go-to people who continually put out fires and rescue hapless helpless types like me, in practice.
Images of the stacks of lessons I proof read wouldn't be interesting or appropriate to post. Have discovered I enjoy doing it, tho.  They're like puzzles (that I LIKE, since I don't care for puzzles) to figure out what is supposed to be communicated and what's actually in the lesson.  What matters and what doesn't.  It's not easy and I rely heavily on the internet to double check my thinking on terminology and spelling, especially since TAL uses curriculum based on the U.K.'s version of English.  Words like "lorry" and "lift," can stump an American like me.  I have friends here from the U.K., though, and Google has that gap covered, too.

Creating Mind Maps is really fun! It's an attempt to help the kids to catagorize words into sections--to see, at a glance, how they fit under a collective theme.  I'm used to seeing mind maps that look like kind of overwhelming spiderwebs of color and words.  To create something, using 20+ years of sign painting experience, that's more visually appealing, less dizzyingly complex, is the goal.
It's exciting to begin to understand what possibilities exist in
merging what I draw (but mostly find--not enough time to draw at the moment, 
always deadlines and I'm learning more useful stuff than I ever learned in college)
 with computer generated text and imagery. 
Google access is officially banned by China, but, 
coworkers have helped me bypass that.  
Can't do my job w/o it. Can't stay sane w/o it.   
The whole country is run on pirated software anyway.  True story.  
The creation of cultural lessons for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are on my to-do list.  Here's a page from Halloween:
When I finish the Mind Maps (there'll be around 30-40 pages of them, in total) and this round of cultural lessons, I've been asked to (insert drum roll here) 
create 10 story lessons, based on MY STORIES!
SO, life is VERY, VERY full and there's never enough time...I bring work home with me sometimes and will continue to do so.  This job is like an internship--I'm discovering and learning something new all of the time and, just as it was necessary to put in 16 hour days to complete a painting project on time and at the quality I'd feel good about, or write a paper for BYU, long hours aren't a burden when they're part of something you really want to do.

There won't be as many travelogues from here as I had time for in Sacheon, South Korea. But, that's ok, because I came here to work and that's what I'm doing. 

When you think of the hard-working, polite, and understated qualities you normally associate with people from Asia, they all work on curriculum developing.  It's an honor to work with them! I'm making a list of stuff I love here.  Someone said I could do the same for what I don't love.  Nope.  Too easy to see that stuff since by and large the people have been programmed to distrust foreigners.  Being glared at and cheated is more common than a smile.  I can't get my nails done in the colors I prefer or w/o being charged double unless I bring tall, strong-willed, Chinese co-worker "Hannah," who won't allow it.  Here's Hannah (who'd getting married this weekend!), "Cheng," & my nails:
China is DIVERSE. It bares very little resemblance to what people think of when they think of Asia. Many of the people here are as tall or taller than I am.  The geography is reflected in the people.  They'll yell, chastise, laugh, spit, and cut in line.  Others are more demure and keep their thoughts to themselves until they really trust you.  They're all "traditional" Chinese, just as there's no "typical" American. I realize that now.  Pearl S. Buck novels are an excellent insight into that fact, since Chinese was her first written language, I believe, and she wrote from a lifetime of experience, not hearsay. So, here are some more of the people who make stuff happen here:
Nancy, in the middle, the boss and head of festivities for TAL's 14th Birthday party a week ago.
Pamela is heading up our new Junior High lessons.  I'm a huge admirer of hers.  Brilliant lady.
Ran Wang, got me this job and I need another blog to write about her.  
But, let's end with images from her wedding yesterday, 
to her sweetheart and best friend since Junior High.
Me with my favorite Teacher Trainer, just before heading home!
Ran with new hubby and buddies from work, after the ceremony.
Queen for a day, Ran the bride, who was drop-dead gorgeous, despite herself! 
She hated all the fuss and did not want a big wedding, but BIG is what she got and 
she pulled it off like a royal.  Love her so much, I cried.
A romantic at heart, I love happy endings and have every confidence that the
ending of the crazy wedding day is the beginning
of happiness for Ran and Nan!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Random Reactions to Beijing

These are partial views from my apartment windows.  
It's a very old place, on the top of 6 fights of cement stairs (no elevator). 
 I love it! Haven't lived IN a big city since Tokyo, and the view makes climbing all those stairs and being stared at by Chinese neighbours who aren't accustomed to Westerners, worth it.

Inside, it's comfortable, but also kind of, umm, "interesting" in how the restoration of the place was done.  If you're inside and look around a bit, you'll see huge wholes filled in with plaster and uneven floor tiles, etc., but I don't look too closely.  It all works and feels charming!  It's a great place to come "home" to for a year.  I hear children singing at a near-by preschool every weekday morning, traffic pretty much all the time (which I can close the door to anytime and it becomes soft, white noise in the background), with kids and folks chatting and playing below, outside my kitchen window.  
Here's where I proof read, work on power points, etc.  A lot of what I want to do is blocked by China, so that's a hurdle to overcome.  I should FINALLY be able to do the teaching demo next week! Was supposed to do during the first week.  Too sick (having left the states taking antibiotics for pneumonia) and too overwhelmed by the new tech, lesson format, etc to accomplish the task any sooner, I was given more time.  Gettin' there!
Took the photo in the evening, but, during the day
 I'm surrounded by co-workers, 
which is great, since there's so much I don't know!
End of the day view, outside my building, while waiting for my bus.  A lot of the neon letters and images on the lighted billboards, unfortunately, 
won't show up on a photograph taken with my iPhone.

About Chinese food in reality.  Many things are mislabeled.  According to this packet of something like 12 flavored soy nuts, there are nearly 500 calories--yes, I converted Kj to calories--in these 2-3 bites.  The melon next to it (Tian Bao, I think?) is mildly sweet and 100% edible.  It's a happy new discovery!  But, what's served in most cafeterias and for dinner at our work is generally so full of sugar, msg, grease, other fillers, and what seems like fake food, I usually get sick again if I eat more than a third of what I'm served.
Rather than embarrass anyone by taking photos of my food, I found this image on line.  It looks a lot like something I like and eat (minus some of the unidentified stuff). But, that orange colored liquid is oil.  It sticks to your teeth, mouth, throat, and, it seems, my lungs.  I cough more at night, after eating any of these foods, than I do at the beginning of the week, when I've been careful to eat soup, honey and fruit over the weekend.  So, yes, the FOOD in Beijing is a rude surprise.  I believe that Chinese food, in its original form, IS healthier than American's tradition of meat and potatoes.  But not anymore.  I'd feel much better after a burger and salad on the side, even if it's just lettuce.  
So I can get over this nasty cough and recurring fever, I decided it's time to cook in my kitchen.  Since I'm still cash poor until payday, 
I go to Walmart (VERY different on the inside than an American story) 
bc they accept my credit card.  
These 2 boys helped me find the store yesterday.
They walked a mile out of their way to help the confused American woman! The long walk started off by my trying to find a bus that goes there (tired of paying for taxis--that's another blog.  Cheap, but "iffy" drivers.  The worse they are, the more you pay).  Ended up walking, seeing something of my neighborhood, and getting lost.  I am so impressed with the youth in China! 
Most people aged 30 and younger will do whatever they can to help you.  
The really old would too, but sadly, I don't speak Chinese. :-( 
Anyway, bought liver (I happen to love it, and it's rich in iron) 
& wheat noodles (the same kind I found in Korea! I was so excited!!) 
bc. they're so much richer in protein and everything else, than white rice or rice noodles.
Also, purchased raw, skinless chicken with no fat, and eggs. Adding these to the ingredients I brought home of Friday (cabbage, mushrooms, onion, tofu...), was able to make a super healthy soup. It's delicious!  Besides, determined to stop feeling so lousy for over 1/2 the time! If you ever come to Beijing, throw out the idea that you're coming to the land of healthy eating.  Not right now.  There's no regulation and, unless people suddenly start dying (like the time, I hear rumors, that baby powder laced baby formula started killing babies), no accountability for whatever nutrition is or isn't included in whatever you're served.  I'm not a picky eater. 
 I only noticed because of the direct correlation between 
feeling sicker after eating most of the foods available.  
Oh, and a lot of the water's pretty lousy.  Even after boiling it 10+ minutes, it doesn't taste ok.

Guess what?  Knives aren't sold commonly.  They're considered to be weapons.  
I couldn't even find a table knife to help me chop up stuff for my soup.  
Instead, I found this. 
Yep, it's a pie server! I felt the edges--sharp and rough.  This'll work, I thought.  It does! Craziness. 
 I could easily off someone with this thing....shhhhh! I didn't say that!
These are a few "modern" rickshaws, that can be seen everywhere, carrying everything and everyone that might fit into or on them.  You'll notice that some are pedalled manually.  Most are motorised. They all have 3 wheels.  A silver one carries people (I took this photo in the parking lot). 
This one has plants and flowers for sale. The lady in the back buys some.
Here's a bright teal-colored tiny version of a truck/wagon.  The driver's napping.
And the streets are swept up by the kind you see in this photo. I was waiting for my bus.  
So cool!  I love 'em!  One of these days, I'll get up the nerve to ride in one 
(when I'm sure I have cash and time to get lost, maybe)
Let's end with some photos of traditional architecture tucked in here and there in a mostly modern city.  I'm delighted whenever I see little touches like this.  I don't want to be anywhere in any city.
China is where I am and what I want to see!