29 October, 2017

How I Lost my Resting Bi*** Face

For the sake of not wearing out my asterisk key, I will refer to  "Resting Bi*** Face"  as "RBF". We all on the same page? Good.

Like many others, I seem to have a natural RBF. No one has ever called me out on it, and it wasn't an issue I really noticed when we lived in the States. ...Well, there was that one time, when I was getting a new drivers license, and thought I would thwart the DMV's "No smile" rule by just lifting the corners of my mouth a little. I could feel the slight smile on my face. When I got the license? No smile. At all. It felt like I was gently smiling, but the smile didn't show.

I have an RBF.

When we moved to Beijing, I started using public transportation with tens of thousands of others each day. (I would estimate that I see at least 50,000 individuals daily, simply through taking the subway.) I was struck by how downtrodden everyone looked! No smiles, unless two people were actively engaged in an amusing conversation. everyone looked sad, mad, or just beaten down by life! 
This is MY personal photo - not stock photo from online!

Perhaps they are just reserved. I have noticed that my Chinese friends are less emotional. Less "demonstrably" emotional, at least. But it's daunting, and can get into your head to be surrounded by a perceived negativity.

At any rate, I made a decision to smile when I am out in public. Just to look friendly - especially since I am already head and shoulders taller than most, and an RBF could make me even more intimidating. I want people to feel okay to answer if I ask a question, or to just smile back! 

I try to make sure the smile gets into my eyes, if I make eye contact. Might as well be friendly!

Occasionally it works and I get a smile in return. Most often from kids - they are a great ice-breaker, aren't they? But at the very least, ensuring that I have a smile on my face helps me to observe the world through a more positive lens. 

19 October, 2017

Life Can be Confusing. So Can Death.

So apparently my dad is of the impression that he was told by his urologist to "get his affairs in order" by November. 

I heard that from my sister, who quickly followed it with, "but then Mom said, 'no - he said we need to do any traveling before November'." When Dad was hospitalized for a prostate issue a year or so ago, they found out that his kidneys were a bigger problem.

My dad is of the mind that medication and extreme treatment are not the way he wants to live his life. After having a stroke in 2012 - which led to my move back to the Midwest to be nearby - the only medication he condescended to accept was a daily aspirin regimen. He has already stated that he doesn't want dialysis. No wait, according to Mom, he said he "won't do" dialysis. 

I'm guessing that the "travel before November" guideline was the doctor's way of telling my parents that Dad should expect to require dialysis at that point. Which means Mom has that long to try to convince him that it isn't "a waste of time".

My sister believes he should start dialysis, because it affects more people than just him. True. Dad's life and death does affect more people than just his-own-self. But if that's not the kind of life he wants, shouldn't we honor that? To take a half a day, 3 times a week (or so) to go sit in some medical facility hooked up to a machine is a "waste of time" for him.

My first thought is that, typically he spends at least half his day sitting/sleeping in his recliner, or writing and playing on his computer, so what's the difference? I bet he could  take his computer with him. But then, it won't be as comfy as doing those things at home. So...

I bet he is - secretly or with Mom's knowledge - getting his affairs in order. Which means I am doing some mental preparations. He will be 78 in December. If you need dialysis and don't get it, how long does it take until your kidneys kill you? We just spent a pile on a trip to the US. I don't know how soon I can afford to go back.

17 October, 2017

Not to Be a Diva, But...

Remember when I said I have a pretty sweet gig doing English kids' videos?
I saw part of the first video, and let's just say I'm glad it's a world away from everyone who knows me!

I don't want to say too much, but frankly, it's kind of amateur hour. 

Things I like:
  • It's cool that we recorded against a blank background, and there are magically cartoon-y flowers and images around me.
  • The graphics that pop up are nice. Like showing the folds in the origami bit, or the key words floating onto the screen.

What kind of bugs me:
  • They chose pink for the background, and in the full shots I practically blend into it. Seriously, I'm that fair. 
  • Because it was action-based, and I hadn't done the crafts before (my assistant did), my banter is a bit stilted. (Not to mention, we did 24 videos in 8 hours, so I wouldn't have remembered every bit line even if I had them written out.)

What truly, deeply, bothers me:
The sound is all echo-y. You can tell we are in a big, blank room. The cameraman / producer actually rented a professional studio, but - maybe because he's a cameraman in his day job, and not a sound tech - didn't connect the mic in such a way to reduce the echo. 

I worked at my college TV studio, so I know a little bit about this stuff, although of course it's all different since those days.

I had to say everything so very slowly, that I was boring myself just watching it. BUT... I can't speak faster, since this is going out to little kids who are just learning English. So slow is necessary. I am pleased that I used my "speaking to kids" voice, and it's warm and inviting and not so deep and bossy as I feel I usually sound. 

I'm only saying this here, because as I said, it's a pretty sweet gig, and I'm not going to blow it. In another year or so, I'll look too old to relate to kids, so they'll be looking for someone else. I'll take advantage while I can!

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.