Friday, December 18, 2009

Note to self:

In China, "Coffee Shop" may very well mean "bar". So when someone asks you (or Zack) to come out to their coffee shop, they may be inviting you to go a loud, smoky bar that serves alcohol and no coffee, but has a sign in the front that reads "Coffee Shop."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'm a person, ya know!

Sometimes I feel like I'm just a commodity to my Chinese friends. I just want to know who actually wants to be my friend-- Jessica Custer's friend, more than a foreigner's friend. I thought I could tell the difference, but I'm not so sure.

I guess it's just been one of those days.

It's been a little tough staying positive over here during the Holidays. Your prayers are appreciated. HE is good.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!! (So what if it's the day after?)

This year, I'm thankful for...

Chickity China the Chinese Chicken. Yes, chicken. You're not Turkey, but you're close enough.

My siblings and friends in the States. You write me emails, you send me facebook messages, you pray for me, you talk to me on Skype, you demand my mailing address from me, and if you're reading this, you even read my blog.

My family in China--Katie, Elizabeth, and Zack. How lonely, discouraged, bored, and hungry I would be without you all. And that is the truth. You are each caring, fun, encouraging, and incredibly giving. I have so much to learn from you.

My parents. Although you wholeheartedly wish I lived closer and secretly wish I would get married, you are incredibly supportive of my being here. :) You send me expensive packages, you'll drop anything you're doing if I'm homesick and talk to me on Skype, and you tell me you're proud of me (which always makes me choke up). What wonderful parents I have.

My Father. Who knew that I would grow closer to HIM in a land that knows HIM not? My love deepens each day that I teach of HIS love to my students. I am so overwhelmed as I write this list of all that I am thankful for. For HE has given me so much...

And lastly, Western Toilets. Self-explanatory.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Perfect Gift

Dedicated to Elizabeth.

November 19, 2009. Yichang, China. It was a cold, fall day. But not just any day. It was Elizabeth's birthday. And Katie and I, after weeks of contemplation and hours of shopping (Exaggeration? Perrrrhaps.), had settled on purchasing a turtle for Elizabeth. Yes, it was the perfect gift. We could already envision the way Elizabeth would light up and her husband, Zack, would grimace at the sight of it. We were pleased.

The plan was as follows: Katie and I both had morning classes, being that I am domestically challenged, Katie would begin cooking preparations for the lunchtime party that would take place at our apartment whilst I hopped on a bus to Children's Park where I could make the purchase of a turtle family to bring back just in time for the birthday celebration at 1:00 PM and, thus, give Elizabeth the ultimate birthday surprise. It was infallible. Or, was it?

11:40 AM: As planned, I leave after my second morning class and promptly catch bus #23, slightly aware of the fact that a visit to the Ladies Room will be warranted in the near future.

12:00 PM: Upon arrival to Children's Park, I began to get really cold. This does not help the situation of the full bladder. But I'm still not exactly a fan of the squatty potty, so I decide to hold out. I approach the previous location, where only days before there had been an abundance of teeny, tiny turtles for sale, but to my dismay, there are only fish. I immediately realize that we had recently undergone a cold front, no doubt from the icy winds blasting from our Northern friend, Mongolia, and fear this temperature change must have seasonally done away with the numerous green, shelled reptilians that usually lined the streets in their little bowls.

12:10 PM: I do not know even know how to ask where I could purchase one since I can't say "turtle" in Chinese, so I pull out my phone and call Katie. No answer. I do not panic. I am Jess Cus. Chill as the air I am breathing. Immediately, I see a cute shop and am, once again, filled with hope. I buy the birthday girl a pink tiara (muahaha) and some nail polish. But, alas, this is no suitable replacement for a turtle. At this point, the urge is becoming bothersome. I throw the money at the woman and leave, starting to feel nervous about finding a suitable gift in time.

12:20 PM: I exit the shop and walk around a bit more, wondering if I was right about the previous location being the spot that I'd seen turtles at before. As I walk, I take a long look at a sign with an arrow pointing towards the WC. But I press on. There is no time to waste. (No pun intended.)

12:25 PM: I call Katie, again. No answer. I risk the chance of Elizabeth being with her husband, and call Zack. I ask him if she would like fish. "Umm. I don't know. I don't think so." I ask him what I should do. "Well, there's a pet store somewhere.." I ask him if he knows where, "Uhh.. No.." Just when I begin to doubt his usefulness, he provides me with the Chinese word for turtle (乌龟 or "wu gui"). Xie xie, Zachary.

I actually know how to ask where something is, but somehow this slips my mind, and I begin to walk around asking people if they speak English. Every person I approach just looks at me, startled and confused to be approached by a foreigner and as they walk away I begin to frantically shout "Wu giu? Wu gui?!" The fact that I have seriously gotta go is getting to my head. I realize I'm scaring people, and decide to rethink my current course of action.

12:30 PM: Another call to Katie. No luck. I look at the time, and I think I actually say out loud, "Elizabeth, you're getting fish--and you will like it." I march back across Children's Park to the booth where the selection of gold and black fish are swimming happily in water, two of which are unaware of the terrifying ride of their lives they will shortly undergo. Poor suckers.

I haphazardly point out two fish: "Zhe ge, zhe ge" (this one, this one), ready to quickly make the purchase and find a toilet of refuge. I start looking around to see if I can find a restroom nearby--there it is. The stick figure woman shines in the sun. Like the pearly gates, it beckons me, and although I am not there yet, and the road to get there seems long, painful and, at times, impossible, I have faith that I will make it. The lady behind the table has already scooped out my two fish but is pointing at the swollen eye of one of them--apparently I've picked one that is less than perfect. I try to tell her that the fish is fine (who am I to discriminate?) but she continues to argue with me in Chinese, so I give in, and she happily dumps the less than perfect one back in the tank, and nets another.

12:35 PM: Like everything in China, this is not going as quickly as I had hoped. In a moment of insanity, I actually wonder if I can hold it out any longer. Never has giving up looked so appealing. At least it'd be.. warm.. I push the thought from my mind. MUST. PRESS. ON.

I am vaguely aware that little Chinese man and woman are giving me choices for a bowl, some colorful rocks, and fish food and I just keep saying, "Hao, hao, hao" and waving my hands impatiently. I try to ask for them to put the fish in a bag, like they do at carnivals, so I won't have to carry a bowl full of water, but they just put a bag around the bowl full of water. Whatever. "Duo shao qian?" I say as I rummage through my purse. I realize I can't even stand still anymore and the people are looking at me like I have two heads as I try with all my might to conceal the fact that I am doing a little dance that I'm pretty sure I haven't done since I was three. I don't hear how much they say so I just throw money at them, they hand me my change hurriedly as they can tell that something is wrong. I grab the bowl and the fish goods and make a dash for the stick figure lady and throw back, "Thank you!" (Probably in English.)

12:40 PM: I'm pretty sure the sloshing water in the fish bowl is not helping matters. But I am almost there, and for a moment, I think I'm going to make it--and then I round the corner and am stopped by some ladies behind a counter demanding money for my right to pee in a private place. At this point I don't even try to hide my urgency. I grab some money while I dance, throw it at them, throw my fish bowl at the lady, and fly past the ladies who are now laughing hysterically at me.

The deed is done. I walk out with my head held high, and a smile on my face. The ladies laugh at me, once again. But I don't even care. Not having to go has never felt so good. I nod my head at them and go on my way to the party, second-rate gift in hand, and feeling victorious.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

They Call Me Waiguoren

How living in China helps my self-esteem (or, gives me a big head):

1.Being told I’m beautiful by just about everyone I meet. Sometimes in the elevator of the building I teach in I’ll be standing there with the other persons openly gaping at me until I finally give in and smile and say hello. They will either shyly say hello back or startle giggling, and in more than one case a group of girls have yelled to me, “You are beautiful!” as they shuffle off the elevator onto their floor only to collapse into a giggling fit right before the doors close. It seems that my Chinese friends are in awe of my typical American qualities--rounded eyes, pale complexion, wavy, brown hair, and “high nose”

2.“You are so clever!” Because I use my left hand, there is no doubt in any Chinese person’s mind that this is proof of my cleverness. I’m so clever I’ve taught myself to use the wrong hand!!

3.Falsely feeling as though I live on the edge. One day I wore a green skirt when it was in the 60’s (Fahrenheit) outside, and all of my students exclaimed when I entered the room. “Whooaa!” I looked at them in surprise and asked what had happened and they pointed at my skirt and said, “So cool! Because it is cold outside!!”

4.Apparently, when I am miserable I am “sweet”. The other morning in class, I could not get warm. (No heaters en la clase de ingles.) I wore my gloves, my hat, and my scarf and was shivering as I was teaching. The boys in the front row were quietly laughing and kept turning to each other and speaking in Putonghua (which is expressly against my rules) I finally stopped and said, “Please tell us what you are talking about in English” and they responded, “You are just so.. sweet.”

5.In an effort to teach my students a song in English, I will sing it through by myself the first time, and when I finish, my class erupts in deafening applause.

"If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness..." (2 Cor. 11:30)

Disclaimer-- I have an incredible voice, only if you compare me to say... Janice! (You know the one.. from Friends?). Probably the only American who thinks I'm as beautiful as Chinese people do is my mom :] Me? Clever?? I hardly passed College Algebra. Let's face it, I'm too afraid of heights to even step on any edge, much less live on it. And, I'm not gonna lie, I'm way too sarcastic to be considered sweet. And this, my friends, is the truth.

And so, without further adieu, how China keeps me humble:

1.I try to speak in Mandarin, only to be laughed at. Apparently when I botch up a tone (or two), I might as well have not tried.

2.There have been several occasions that I have yelped in terror as I nearly got hit by a car or motor scooter. This one time, as I’m still recovering from the experience, a group of Chinese people are behind me mocking my scream and laughing hysterically. I contemplate taking a bow but I settle with waving at them and pretending to find my near death experience as funny as they.

3.“What’s that?” My Chinese friend leans in closely, examining my face. “It’s a pimple. Thanks for asking.."

4.I laugh loudly at a restaurant at something funny my friend says, only to be quickly shushed as my friends look around to make sure we haven’t attracted any attention. I quickly stop laughing; no longer remembering what was funny.

5.I make a joke in class that I think is incredibly witty, only to realize that I am the only one laughing.

Thanks, Lord, for keeping me in check.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Starvation or hypothermia: That is the question

The weather is FREEZING cold. So cold I'm actually wearing a scarf inside the house right now. (I hate things around my neck. It makes me itch.) So cold, I fall asleep embracing my hot water bottle. So cold, I made no-bake cookies for dinner tonight to avoid going out in the frigid air to obtain acceptable sustenance for dinner. :/ Yeah, THAT bad. This is a big deal for me being that I'm more of a eating out to avoid staying in kind of girl. I love eating out! Katie and I have discovered that I will actually walk a mile in the rain to buy something as simple as fried rice before I would even consider frying bacon--Now you understand me; I don't handle the cold well. THis is a predicament, and I'm slightly afraid I'm going to dwindle down to nothing by the end of the winter season. I am in peril. Who will save me? Why am I having dreams about frozen pizza? Where has all the instant food I lived on in college gone?!?! OK, I'll stop being dramatic now. I suppose I'll just go grocery shopping sooner than later. Maybe I'll cook something... sometime... maybe... BAH! Gotcha. Besides, the kitchen's cold, too.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dedicated to the Katester

Once there was a girl named Kitty. And she became the roommate of JessCia. Kitty was from the great land Oklahoma, where everybody wears Cowboy hats and eats okra. And JessCia was from Florida/Pennsylvania--most importantly known as two of the Swing States in American Presidential elections.

Kitty and JessCia adopted a pet turtle Kitty aptly named Nuwanda after they went through a Dead Poets Society kick.

Together, JessCia and Kitty raised Nuwanda with much love in the happenin' place of Yichang, China. Kitty kept him warm and fed, and JessCia occasionally picked him up and watched him kick his wittle wegs.

Together they experienced ultimate camaraderie by listening to fantastic music at high volume (most likely to the dismay of their neighbors), regularly studying the Good Book with their friends, and, of course, giggling together.

Kitty established herself as the homemaker particularly by the way she baked and cooked many delicious things throughout their time together. JessCia would contribute by occasionally changing a light bulb, thanks to her great lankiness that the Lord had blessed her with, thus establishing herself as the (figurative) man of the house.

Kitty enjoyed a good run on many occasions while JessCia would (very) occasionally join Chinese men on the basketball court and whoop their behinds.

JessCia and Kitty both love to write fictional stories and even formed a super secret club where they wrote stories and shared them with each other. Said club is not supposed to mentioned in JessCia's blog.... oops. However, JessCia knew that this club's secret was not out because no one read her blog but Kitty.

(Thank you, Kitty.)

Yes, theres was a life of much joy and love.


Let it be known that both Kitty and JessCia, although very happy as a Chinese family, are very much keen on the striking, intelligent, and Good Book lovin' male variety. Although, obviously, we don't need them to be complete nor happy. Thank you.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Random Act of Kindness

So, this one day I ride my bike to class. If you know me at all, you know that I have no patience to get anywhere early. Sit in class and wait for the students to arrive? hah! I'd rather bust in minutes before the bell rings--out of breath and with my hair styled by the wind.

So, I get to the J-building, where I teach English on the fourth floor--which is really quite quaint; It makes me feel like I'm teaching in a one room schoolhouse--no computers, no projectors, no heating, and no funny business.

Anyway, so I'm outside of the J-building and I mess around with my lock to secure my bike for a while, only for it to jam up on me. Running short on time and patience, as always, I manage to yank my key out and skip off to class taking one last look at the bike and hoping for the best.

After class, I head back out of the building and remember that I'd left my bike unattended and unsecured. I quickly spot it and feel relieved, however, as soon as I get closer I see that my blue bike lock that I had left loosely strewn over the metal railing has been nicely draped over my seat, and a strange green lock has been placed around the front tire of my bike, attaching it to not only the metal bike rack, but another bike. My first reaction was like, "Wha?! Is this some weird way of stealing someone's property??" Then, I see the note. It's in Chinese, so I can't read it, but I'm sure it says something to the effect of, "Lock it or lose it, you fool." There's a phone number written across the bottom. I don't bother calling and trying to communicate in English to a Chinese student over the phone--I just manage to secure my bike should the person leave, and I figure I'll come back for it later. I only leave a note that says, "Thank you!" in English and draw a smiley face, knowing I haven't conveyed the depths in which I have been touched.

I guess it's just nice to feel taken care of every now and then. :]

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Who Needs Thanksgiving..

When you've got Bachelor's Day? Yes, that's right, China has a day for singles to celebrate their.. single-ness. You go, China.

Happy Bachelor/Bachelorette's Day everyone.

(Just kidding about the Thanksgiving remark.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

So, it's midnight...

And I just realized I never ate dinner.

When did my life get so busy here?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Just a Sunday Night

I'm sitting in my and Katie's apartment right now, next to a fresh, warm plate of muffins Katie just baked, and a lit scented candle, drinking hot cocoa and admiring the coziness of our apartment on one of our first chilly nights. I'm anticipating students to show up at anytime for another one of our evening "studies". I love my life. I'm looking forward to this week and all the surprises a single week in China are sure to bring. We had a girl's study about peace the other day, and I thought to myself: When was the last time I felt so at peace? I really can't remember. I love being somewhere where I know I'm actually doing GOOD. I'm living for THE purpose. The only one worth living for. This makes those tough days (really, REALLY tough days) truly worthwhile.

Today is day 3 of the splitting headache that has been mercilessly plaguing me. Last night I actually went and got a genuine Chinese massage in an attempt to squelch it. The massage was wonderful.. and kind of painful. Today, I just feel wonderfully painful. I have actual bruises from the petite woman that kneaded my back muscles. BRUISES. I am in awe of her finger strength. *Pops a tylenol*

In other news, I got a bike yesterday. Thanks to one of my students, Alex. I mentioned to Alex one day that I was looking to purchase a second-hand bicycle, and what do you think happened then? He and his friends posted flyers about purchasing a bike all over campus, met with a perspective bike sales girl, tried out the bike, bargained it down, and, finally, called me. I had no idea any of this was going on. This is a prime example of friendship in China. I'm learning that I have to make sure not to mention any little desire in front of a Chinese friend unless I expect them to dedicate their lives to the cause until the need is met. It blows me away. And while it is fantastically sweet and kind, it makes me feel nothing short of terrible to cause someone so much trouble.

Anyway, it's yellow and fabulous. :) (The bike) I rode around for an hour on it today and discovered parts of campus that I never knew existed. I don't even mind that everyone stares at me and honks at me relentlessly as I ride it. (That's a lie.) I'm trying to enjoy it while it's still warm(ish) and while I can (I've been promised that it will get stolen from me by every Chinese person I know.. I'm pretty sure my Chinese friends worry about me more than my mom ever did.)

Oh, China.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Long time, no blog

Well, let's see.. I've been living in China for about 2 months now. This would be a good time to catch ALL of my readers (yes, all of you) up on all that's gone on in my life (since you're dying to know) now that I've switched countries...

First, there was the day i moved here. First visual that comes to mind--squatty potty. *gag*

First thoughts that came to mind: "Mhmmmm, and where's the edible food?"

Then I got settled in, started teaching, made some amigas and amigos, traveled, taught some more, set up some "important" studies (hallelujah), aaaaand, we're back. And now--I love it. China + Me = Togetha 4 Eva (or for a year, anyway.)

Today I taught an 8:00 class to my "naughty" students. (This is the common term Chinese people use for bad behavior, I promise) Truly, it was the closest I've gotten to losing my cool. I have a few rich, spoiled students so it's not always all fun and games. I really like them, though... this particular class is just a bit loud and crazy. They need a dose of healthy fear. Maybe I'll bring in a yardstick and start slapping the tops of their desks with it with every point I make and thens start slapping the backs of their heads every time they speak in Chinese. Brilliant. I should have asked myself for advice earlier.

it's actually chilly today. Yay, Autumn!! I love me some cool, crisp air. Scarf time?! Yesh!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hello World, Revolve Around Me

As far as summers go, this has been one of my faves. Yet, I am SO ready for August 21. It's become difficult to tear myself away from making lists and perusing my Lonely Planet in order to go to work or sleep. Patience is a virtue, I hear. I think that means I have none of it.

Just a week ago, I was getting myself all worked up over things I would miss in the 10 months while abroad. I was angry that my nieces and nephews would surely look different next I saw them, and would nearly burst into tears every time the thought entered my mind; then I would get irritated when friends and family dared talk about the holidays or make any plans for occasions that would take place while I'm across the world. How dare people continue living life without my presence! Seriously, now.

Yep, I've been preettyyy self-absorbed. But the last few times I was set and ready to feel sorry for myself or complain about people not being considerate enough of my feelings, I was touched by situations in which people have, you know, VALID concerns in their lives. The humility stung for a bit, but it popped things back into perspective pretty quickly. So, here's to wake-up calls--of which I am grateful. Cheers.

Departure = 16 days.

Bring on the adventure.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Countdown Begins

Departure = two months

Whoop! My first entry! I'm determined to get into the habit of journaling via this blog; so, here I am.

I have a loooong way to go as far as preparations for the big move. I went through a spurt, right after I graduated in May, where I was reading up on Chinese history and studying Chinese geography non-stop. The excitement has been tamed a bit and now I've fallen into a daily schedule of working and then coming home, relaxing, and spending time with family. I'm pretty excited that it's time to switch up to second gear. He is so good to me. Please lift up good thoughts concerning preparations, especially in the form of fundraising, for me.

I am very fortunate for the summer job that I've landed... times two. Fort Walton Beach, normally teeming with businesses eager to hire sales associates and waitresses to assist with the rush of summer tourists, has been strangely void of these miserable, minimum pay customer service positions. This, no doubt, is another effect of our stuggling economy. Therefore, I did not go back to my position at Belk among low-rise jeans and tube tops, rather, I find myself at a well-respected local day camp escorting bouncing, bubbling, and ever tattling 5 year-olds on numerous field trips around the Emerald Coast. No complaints, here.

I have an adorable Chinese girl in my Pre-Kindergarten group. She has been teaching me basic Chinese vocabulary per my request; mostly she has tutored me in numbers and body parts. She is amazing to me--what with being bilingual in such diverse languages at such a young age. Despite occasionally getting confused as to whether she is speaking Chinese or English, she is an excellent teacher. On the other hand, my skills as a language learning student are not quite so impressive. I have yet to pronounce her name correctly. This, as you can imagine, is the product of a lot of laughter--hers.

Just a reminder that I will be accessing this blog throughout my stay in China, so comments to be posted now and in the future should be done so.. thoughtfully. :)

EEEK! (Random squeal of excitement. Sorry.)