Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Surprises!

My last post was about a day of unpleasant surprises. Well this past week we were SHOCKED by a most pleasant surprise.

Our head English teacher, Ms. Meow, is an adorable little person only a year older than me. She’s really cool, too. She took us to KTV and sang her heart out to some Shania Twain. Also at our school is a PE teacher who’s name is… well… actually we’re not sure, because he changed it. His Chinese name is Ding Laoshi. His English name is either Todd or Dean. We call him Ding Laoshi. 

Anyway, we have noticed that Ms. Meow and Ding Laoshi hang out quite a bit. He came with us to KTV. They are regularly seen together at lunch. But as far as we knew, no dating was happening, so we took it upon ourselves to plan their future together. We talked about it many times. Kimmie didn’t know if it was culturally appropriate to suggest it to Ms. Meow, seeing as how they are colleagues, so instead we just talked about it to each other. We were so convinced of their happiness together that when Ms. Meow brought another “friend” with her to KTV who was talking to Ding Laoshi a little too much we started planning to take her out.

The candy tin :)
Monday we came in to work as normal. I was sitting at my desk when Ms. Meow came over and put a little tin of candy on my desk, without saying anything, and walked away. The tin had a bride and groom on it. I thought, oh, she must be handing out candy for someone who got married. I wonder who got married? Then the office went crazy! Ms. Meow got married!! To DING LAOSHI!
We couldn’t believe it! No one, even the Chinese teachers in the office, knew they were dating. I think some of them suspected though. Can you imagine a girl in the US keeping a secret from her WHOLE OFFICE of 90% women that she had been dating someone for 1+ year and she was getting married? Yeah, it wouldn’t happen. 

So it turns out that Ms. Meow was way ahead of us. In fact, that night at our Fall Party for the teachers, we found out they had actually been married since August 15th. (We think?) They won’t have their big wedding celebrations until January, then it will OFFICIALLY be official. 

What a happy surprise!!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Day in the Life...

As many of you will see in the next few weeks, in my next newsletter I talk about learning patience. Ask anyone in my family- patience is not my strong point. So funny that I chose to write about it just last night, and then there was today…

Sunday we met a sweet sister named Liz. She texted me Tuesday and asked if we could meet for lunch. I said yes, and we set the date for today at 12 pm at McDonalds. (It’s one of the few places we know how to get to without Kimmie. She’s currently out of town.) I have learned from previous experiences that hanging out with Chinese people sometimes requires you to eat things you don’t want to eat, to go places you don’t want to go, and to do things you don’t want to do. Knowing this, when I woke up this morning I quickly asked for patience for whatever our “lunch date” might bring. 

We decide to be brave and take the bus to lunch. It takes a lot longer, but it’s a lot cheaper, and it makes us feel like we know what we’re doing. To take the bus we needed to leave at 11 am, one hour early, even though it’s only about a 15 minute taxi ride away. At 10:55 we’re about to walk out the door and I get a call from Liz. This is what I hear…”Hello, Rachel? I am here with my friend. Can you come early?” Ok, guess we’re taking a taxi. 

I go next door to collect Meshea. I’m standing outside her door waiting for her to use the bathroom and I start hearing panicked screaming coming from her apartment. I ask what’s wrong and she says, “I just dropped my iphone in the toilet.” So we take a detour to find some rice. Prayers for the iphone appreciated, its fate is still unknown.

We get to McDonalds. Thankfully her friend, Alyssa, can speak better English than her, so Alyssa ends up translating a lot of conversation for us. Towards the end of lunch Liz asks if we would like to go meet some of her friends at Bai hai park. I was halfway expecting this, so yes. We would love to go. I ask, “Is the park close?” She says, “It is near. It is 4 bus stops away.” 

Translation- “The park is far. It is 4 bus stops AND 15 subway stops away.” Here’s the thing about Chinese surprises- they would be far less frustrating if they weren’t surprises, but because of the communication difficulties, everything seems to be a surprise. You may ask what’s happening, and you may get an answer, but it probably won’t make any sense to you, or it may only be half of the truth. Ours was obviously half the truth. 

So about an hour later we get to the park. It’s an intense park. You have to pay to get in. Surprise! Luckily, it was cheap. We sit and “have a rest” for quite some time while we wait for the friend to meet us. The friend doesn’t come. We quit waiting and start walking. Without our knowledge, Alyssa buys us some candied fruit on a stick. We are scared at first because it’s a mystery fruit, but this turns out to be a pleasant surprise and it’s actually pretty good. Another pleasant surprise- the park is beautiful! It's on a lake with tons of weeping willows and beautiful landscaping. The weather is also perfect for a walk in the park.

Here are some funny things that were said today…
Liz- “Before you come China, you can’t touch the Chinese?” Whaaaat? Not sure how to answer that, or what it means exactly, but her attention is diverted by a phone call from the missing friend and Lacey and I just look at each other and smile. Later on...
Lacey- “Oh, that’s cool, interesting.” Me- “What happened?” Lacey- under her breath, “I have no idea.” This happens often. We smile and say ok, yes, mm hmm, and actually we’re totally lost but it takes too much effort to understand what’s really going on so we move on gracefully.

We walk around the park for about 2 hours. We finally meet the friend, Ocean. He is a photographer/director/we’re not really sure? As we’re walking, Liz grabs my hand. It’s pretty common to see girls holding hands but it hasn’t happened to me yet. I’m in shock at first, then I walk along normally, then I start to feel awkward so I suggest we stop to take pictures so I can get my hand back. I keep my hands occupied from then on. 

Somewhere along the way a bird poops in my hair. 

We decide it’s time to leave and instead of taking the complicated bus/subway route, we are going to hop in a taxi and pay up. Easier said than done! We walk to the end of one street. There’s a traffic jam so very few taxis are actually passing by. The ones that are have their break sign up. We decide we have to take the bus. We walk to the bus stop and join 23049283 other people waiting for the same bus. The bus comes and all 23049283 of them try to get on an already full bus. They are pushing and shoving and the doors wont even shut because of all the people. We decide the bus isn’t for us. We walk down the street the opposite direction. Still no taxis. I’m losing hope that we will ever see our home again. Thankfully, Lacey has much more patience than I do and she is just going with the flow and *trying* to keep me calm. We decide to take a different bus. It’s been about 45 minutes since we tried to start our journey home. 

Our friends are very concerned for us. Liz looks ill and when Lacey asks if she’s ok she says, “I’m very worried about you getting home.” They are so sweet. As we’re waiting for the bus again, Alyssa runs down a taxi and talks him into taking us home. Hope springs new!! As we’re getting into the taxi Liz looks like she’s about to cry. She tells us she loves us.  She says next time we will go to a different park. 

Over dinner Lacey and I talk through our 6 ½ hour “lunch date”. I realize that I still failed in the patience department. Lacey, in her wisdom, says she realized halfway through the day that seeing how happy they were to spend time with us made it worth while. I’m so glad I’m not doing this alone. I need someone to help me put things into perspective!

More stories full of surprises to come, I’m sure. When you think about me take a second to ask for some patience! I’m always in need of it.