It’s been 6 ½ weeks since I got here now, and alongside all the wonderful and growing experiences I’ve had, I’ve had my fair share of slightly hilarious experiences as well. Allow me to share two of my favorite.
A few weekends ago, five of us girls piled into a car and went to The Longxi Hot Springs Resort. Yes, hot springs. Read: natural hot tubs. (Oh, I am so roughing it in China.) Twenty-six of them, to be exact. Some inside, some outside. All at different temperatures and scented with different aromas or filled with something to help this or that when you sat in them. There were mineral added hot springs to help with blood circulation or muscle relaxation, beer and wine scented hot springs, hot springs with flower petals floating in them, some that were supposed to help you sleep better, one that was for bladder dysfunction (stayed far away from that … don’t think I want to sit in the same water as people with a bladder dysfunction). Really, if you can think it up, it was probably there. Including two hot springs called the “Turkey Fish Treatment.” Here’s what you do for that one: First, we sat in one hot spring that left a slight residue on our skin when we got out. Then we got into the hot spring next to it. This one was filled with little fish. Lots and lots and lots of little fish. Why was it filled with little fish? Because when we sat still, said little fish came and nibbled at our skin. Read: there were probably 100 little fish swarming around my legs and nibbling at them and making me want to squeal because it tickled so much. Why? They were eating my dead skin. Yes. I sat in a hot spring and got my dead skin eaten off by hundreds of little fish.
Karaoke is a big deal here. Really, it’s all the rage. Everyone loves karaoke, right? Well, everyone here does. And I wanted to see why it was such a big deal. So, last night 11 of us piled into a van and went to KTV. Our group of six Americans and five Chinese sauntered into KTV and we bought a VIP pass, which meant that after two hours of singing, we got one hour for free. How do they keep track of how long we sing? Well, you see, it’s not like karaoke as I’ve ever known it. No karaoke bars and singing with people that you don’t know. You go with a big group and rent out a room. This room has a huge wrap-around leather couch and mood lighting and a plasma screen TV and two microphones and the karaoke machine. And then you sing to your heart’s content. And we did. It was actually a tad bit ridiculous how much some of my Chinese friends got into their singing, despite how terrible a few of them were. So, naturally, I got into it as well, despite how absolutely terrible my singing voice is. I belted “My Heart Will Go On” like a pro, and my friend Lauren and I serenaded everyone with “American Pie.” We also conjured up some Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys and Michael Jackson. The night was ended with “Do Re Mi” (yes, from the Sound of Music). Maybe we should have started with that one, since it was used in the movie to help the VonTrapp children learn how to sing … hmm.
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My Chinese is getting better! I can recognize words when I hear people talk. So, sometimes I can understand the context of a conversation that I have no business understanding. It’s quite fun. It doesn’t really help me get around or communicate, but I am excited about beginning to understand more. A big help in this endeavor called “Learning Chinese” has been my friend Ricky. He is a Chinese native, and he is very, very fluent in English; I feel like he speaks better English than some people in America who I know. A few nights ago, I was explaining to him my problem of translating things into Spanish since I didn’t know their Chinese equivalents. So, he asked me to teach him some Spanish. Teaching him some Spanish turned into Ricky proposing a contest. We were to each learn the same five sentences. Ricky would teach them to me in Chinese, and I would teach them to him in Spanish. Then in two days we would have a face off and see who knew their sentences better. The loser had to buy the winner something to eat. I’m always up for a little challenge, and this one would benefit me regardless, so I said ok. Ricky wrote down my sentences and I kept that paper with me for the next day, and didn’t look at it. Oops. You see, a problem here is that Lost season 1 has become a slightly important addition to my evenings. But I am not studying Chinese when I watch Lost. So, the night before this little competition, I watched Lost until 10:30. Then I was tired. But I sat in bed for maybe 10 minutes before I fell asleep and I reviewed my sentences during that time. I knew I wasn’t as well prepared as I should have been, seeing as how I saw Ricky practicing his Spanish on anyone who would listen all day. Oh well, right? Well, I got to lunch the next day, and Ricky had apparently been telling everyone all morning about how he was going to beat me. So the competition began. Ricky was asked to say a sentence. He stalled for maybe 30 seconds and then spit it out. My turn with a different sentence. I got it immediately. Ricky’s second sentence: pronunciation wasn’t entirely amazing. My second sentence: easy. Ricky’s third sentence: he couldn’t remember it. My third sentence: spit it out. Ricky’s fourth sentence: he couldn’t remember it. My fourth sentence: no problem. Ricky’s fifth sentence: stalled, stalled, stalled, stalled, stalled, kind of got it. My fifth sentence: no big deal. I then informed Ricky in Spanish that I wanted two apples. He just stared at me blankly. So, I switched to Chinese. Hooray for slight Chinese communication. I am excited about this!
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My first week of tag team preschool teaching with Lauren went very well. Remember, neither of us are teachers. Lauren just graduated High School. I am a Music Management major. And here we both are, teaching preschool together. I think I am enjoying myself with this preschool teaching. But I still say I don’t think I’ll ever do it again. Perhaps solid statements like that have a way of coming back at you sometimes. Perhaps I am challenging myself by saying that so boldly. I do have an entirely strong feeling that I will be back to China again. This country isn’t something I can just drop. A more long-term trip / work situation / living arrangement may be in the future sometime. Who knows? I guess I can’t know anything for sure right now. But I am trying to find ends that meet right now. I want to know if I’m supposed to be here again. And if I’m supposed to be here, I want to know what am I supposed to be doing.
There are four things that matter most to me in life right now: family, China, and music. The fourth is the One who gets all the credit for giving me all of these things to enjoy. If He has given me these things that are so important to my heart, there must be a way for them to fit together, right? That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot. A lot.
It’s the orphans of this country who have brought me here for these past three summers. It’s the orphans of this country who will continue to put that all-too-familiar burden on my heart. When I am here, they change me for the better – maybe even more than I am able to help them. I come to love them tangibly, and I get so much more in return. There really is something special about China. So here is a warning to any of you who may be thinking about making a trip to this country: Be careful, because you might just Fall In Love with China.