10 October, 2017

The Tragedy of Mandarin

Some days, I despair of ever learning Mandarin. There is SO MUCH! I've started spending a lot of time in review. Just review. Characters mostly, but also my notes from our lessons.

Our 2 hour classes are primarily spent in discussion based loosely on a textbook. We learn a new key phrase or topic - like introducing people or giving directions - and a
Brett, conducting his speech in class.
particular sentence or phrase structure: S+V+direction word +S2. When our teacher writes on the white board, she incorporates characters if we've learned them, but otherwise spells it in pinying. (Our first few lessons were all to learn pinying.)

If there's time, we do 2 or 3 grammatical structures, and for about the last half hour we learn new characters. Often she includes a few ways that character is used, or adds another character to show it in context. She's quite a good teacher.

Homework has two parts. First, sentences that she's spelled in pinying and we have to write in characters - which is harder than it sounds, when there are a half-dozen characters all spelled the same in pinying. Second, she'll list the new sentence structures and we have to write out a given number of sentences that fit it - using characters we've learned, and pinying.



Sound confusing? It all makes sense at the time, but days later I can only remember 3 of the 15 characters we learned. That's when I want to just chuck it all and stumble around using only English. Will I NEVER be able to communicate in Chinese? 


We had a test recently, and she corrected the tests, but there's no grade given. No pressure, except that learning this is actually a life-skill here - a bigger deal than a grade! I did better than I expected, but still had a lot of holes in the character-recall section.
Part of my actual test. I don't recognize my handwriting yet.

Should I just stop? Quit the madness? But then I remember my lofty goals:

1. I want to learn calligraphy. I've wanted to since I was a teenager. Now's my chance. Learn the language, then the art.

2. Read the I-Ching in Chinese. Even my Chinese friends say it is hard to understand.

Regardless of how long we live here, I must persevere, no matter how painful!

07 October, 2017

The More Things Change, the More They Stay The Same.

First of all, Chinese do holidays differently (big surprise). For some holidays, schools take off the Monday. Or Tuesday. Or both, but they will make up the missed day - or at least one of the missed days - on the previous Saturday. Why even take the Monday, am I right?

But other holidays are a huge break. We are winding down National Day holiday, which is October 1st, but the whole country takes off the 1st to 7th. We stayed in Beijing last year, and even the grocery store was closed for 3 days.



This year, we were invited to accompany friends to Qingdao on the Yellow Sea coast. Nice! 
We walked the shore the night we arrived.
(Also, home to Tsingtao beer, the Budweiser of China. Double Nice!)
Tsingtao brewery. Not very Chinese-looking? Germans started the brewery in 1903!

Turns out, there was a bit of an agenda. Yes, vacation at the coast, but our friends run a school in Beijing, and a former student's family had moved down to the area, and the mother is trying to get this school to open a branch down there. Brett would be a prime candidate to manage that location while our friend oversees operations from Beijing.


Buying crabs in Jimo
So we enjoyed the beach and the beer, lots of seafood, and a FANTASTIC hotel, then shmoozed with this woman of influence and looked at the potential site for the new school. 

In short, we may be moving within the year. That's as much as I can wrap my head around at this point. There are so many details to be worked out, and I've worked with this school through potential franchise situations before - witnessing them fall flat for various reasons. 

8 hrs by car, but a bullet train would  be 4-ish.
IF it actually even happens, the timeline could be anything, but I have an agreement to continue what I'm doing into April of 2019, so for a while my time would be split between the 2 locations. Fortunately, there's a bullet train between the two cities. I could get very familiar with travel by the Chinese method!

Or it could be nothing. 
This could all be pie in the sky.
I have let it go. It only concerns me insofar as my beloved husband may want to talk things out in advance. 

For my part? Life is the same.

It was a nice vacation, though. Check it out!
Dinner at Tsingtao Beer Garden, the first night.

The following day, Brett and I split from the pack and their kids.

I got to feel the sand between my toes once again. >sigh<

Nothing better than the sound of the waves.

A sculpture of getting a tattoo!

The goods sold by the "board"walk are different here.

If we move, it would be to here... in the outskirts, a "growing" area.

28 September, 2017

The Difference a Year Makes

Happy Anniversary to me! 


We have officially been living in China for one year, as of yesterday. 

I meant to post yesterday, but I spent the day in a recording studio 2 hours away, making videos for an online class teaching rhymes and crafts to little kids - making English fun and practical, and not just textbook knowledge. It's a pretty sweet gig; I won't lie. What a difference a year makes!
My view from the makeup room

I've learned to look at these projects from a totally new perspective:

I'm just the on-air talent.
I'm the trained monkey.

I have little say in the script or the crafts, except for the fact that I'm the one doing them. But it was kind of fun stepping back from my typical helpful "let me get that" attitude. You do your thing. I'll do mine.

No more teaching for me, not even drama. I wrote a Christmas play for a private facility, but the jury is out on how involved I'll be with that. What a difference a year makes.

Mandarin homework
We are learning the language - almost 200 characters so far, plus words made up of them, plus spoken words and sentences that we haven't learned characters for yet. Well, we've been taught that many, but how many I actually know is debatable. Anyway, it's a start.

We are stable enough to order in food and pay for it. I am looking to Ikea for ways to increase our limited amount of space in the apartment.


We're definitely in a better place than when we first arrived, and it is fall again: The Golden Season in Beijing. That means all the giant-sized fruits that were available when we arrived are coming back.

Life is just life now. We know where to find things we need, and if we are freezing before the heat gets turned on in November (like last year) we can at least afford to buy another blanket!

Things are still often unpredictable. We found a great place for reflexology foot massages, but half the time I go there, they are closed! I cannot figure out their hours. And the way holidays work here throws Brett off almost monthly.

On the whole, things are better than a year ago. Still, for me, the jury is out on this as a potential long-term home. 

23 September, 2017

Letting Go

I'm learning to let go.

Well, I'm trying. All in the name of "being my best self."

Is your social media timeline full of fitness posts too? Maybe I've joined too many groups in the past, or maybe because I used to go to the gym regularly when we lived in the States, but I see motivation like this a lot:






A. Lot. Usually accompanied by images of my friends sweaty from a workout. Awesome! I love it. I love fitness. On some level, I want to be that dedicated to it, too.




And I want to be my best self. Don't we all?


Recently I had an epiphany. (Bear with me. It's kind of obvious and you probably already know it.) My "best self" depends on my inside, not my outside.


So now I read these motivational posts from my friends - who are trying to encourage others to be physically healthy - as motivation to be spiritually and emotionally healthy. I'm letting go of the focus on my flaws.

I do yoga daily, and I try to eat well, so I will no longer beat myself up about the quantities of pizza and beer I take in! I let it go.

If I don't get all the exercise I usually try for, who cares? I let it go.

I am reading a great book about God's promises and prayer. It helped me realize that focusing on my spiritual life is better for me than focusing on my physical attributes.

I meditate.
I'm working on mindfulness again. 
I'm learning to let go of things that used to bother me... Just this morning, I was concerned about 2 work-related issues from 2 different jobs, but realized that I have asked the questions I need to, and it is out of my hands. I let them go. 

The thing is, when I don't get emotional about things, I am truly healthier. When stress builds up in me, inevitably I get an ear infection or a nasty cold. Stress weakens the immune system... and a lot of other systems, to be honest! So I am truly healthier - being my best self - by focusing internally.

What I didn't expect? I look better, too. Getting fit - counting calories, weighing in, measuring my physical body - always focused on how far I still need to go. Focusing on my spiritual and emotional well-being? I'm happier with who I see in the mirror. I genuinely think I look better, although I'm sure I haven't changed physically. 
It's amazing.
You should try it! 

 *All images in today's post are from pinterest

10 September, 2017

Writing to Write - Early Christmas!

Today I voluntarily turned on Christmas music.

No, not because the US is finally past Labor Day, or some silly time-related rule like that.

...honestly, I don't have rules about when it's okay to listen to Christmas music. I listen to what appeals to me, when it appeals to me (unless I'm in an office shared with co-workers) - it's one of the best parts of adulthood!

But I've been tasked with writing the Christmas play for a local international preschool/kindergarten, and today I finally started making real headway. 

I know it is important to include suitable songs, and was seeking inspiration for a carol to break up two scenes. So I turned to all the Christmas albums I've saved to my computer. I didn't keep it on for long.

Story of my life - in theatre, music, or retail, I'm always a season ahead.

03 September, 2017

Starting Over

Okay, I'll try this again. I can't seem to get my thoughts in order, but the longer I postpone writing, the worse it'll be.

We returned from the States and launched into Mandarin
classes. Which is fun, but requires study time outside the 6 hours per week that we're in class. Also, the last two weeks I worked double hours to make up for the 2 weeks I was gone. I have slept and slept on the weekends.

When we moved overseas when I was a kid, the mission group we were with had established timelines: Live in a country for 3 years, then return for a 3 month furlough. That was the timeline we followed. I never thought about it until this trip to the US after just 10 months. I now understand the wisdom of that plan.

Do you know how easy life is in the States? You can go anywhere you want to, without checking in with people. 
Such wide open spaces!

You can buy... SO much. I wanted to record one of our shopping trips to Walmart to share with my Chinese friends here, but decided that might be insensitive, or send a message of greed and materialism.

Seriously - popcorn!


And the heaven that is a bottomless cup of coffee...



My first thought, as we left the Vancouver airport and meandered that city, was, "Man, these Canadians are tall!" Of course, they're no taller on average than Americans. It was just the culture shock of not feeling like a giant!

We had to take the trip when we did. We had given ourselves one year to keep things in storage, with the goal that after a year we would know better what we still might need. So we had to clean out the storage unit, and really put a push out to sell my car. Due to school vacation times, our "one year" became 10 months, so that we could be back in time for school to start.

We cleared out the storage unit - with great success! And succeeded in selling my car. Yay! But on the whole I think the trip was premature. Now I'm back almost to the beginning of trying to consider Beijing home. Not that I want to go back to the States. It's easier, yes, but a LOT more expensive. I speak the language there, but I'm learning this one. 

I don't really know what my problem is. I guess, on the whole, I'll never really be "happy" anywhere, so I just wish I lived in a location that I liked better, so the "unhappy" could be a little comfortable.

I'll be more positive when I write again. I promise. I just need to re-settle a bit.

21 August, 2017

In brief, I'm back.

Well, I'm back, but immediately launched into a busy schedule. Each day, I think I will write a blog post, and then don't.

The day we returned to Beijing, my contact at the audio studio asked when we could come in. So on Friday Brett and I both went down, then I went down again on Saturday. And he keeps expecting me to come down during any couple free hours I have! I'm saying no, a lot.

My boss kindly did not ask me to come in on the weekend, and even only has me working half-days this week! But then, we set up our Mandarin language classes, and they will take up the other half of 3 days a week. 

In short:
We returned safely to Beijing.
We accomplished what we needed to in the US.
I will write a proper blog-post, maybe this weekend.