Xi’an: The City Of Love

Rach says it reminds her of Vegas but there are: no casinos, no strip clubs, no miniature models of places around the world, and no 1000 degree weather at night.

I call it the city of love because: I love it. That’s it. It’s nothing like Paris buuuut There is a light and music show projected on the city wall every night, multiple pagoda style buildings, a super cool city wall, and its just so charming.

We arrived Friday night at around 10 and I honestly expected it to be a small, dead town where people only went to see the terra-cotta warriors. I was dumb to believe that because we exited the metro station to see a light show, people selling light-up balloons, and a man with a turtle. The turtle was just lying on its back, moving it’s neck. He had some lettuce right in front of it that he obviously couldn’t reach and he didn’t have a hat out for money so I have no idea why he was doing that to the turtle. But every single time we walked passed that very place, he was there, with his upside down turtle and lettuce.

We checked into our hostel and I think I just want to move in and live there forever?

It’s beautiful, there are TWO CATS and a guitar and a restaurant and the ceiling is open but there are branches and leaves strung across the roof area and there’s even a bar underneath it. It’s called a “terra-cotta warrior themed bar” and we thought that sounded cool so we went to just check it out and there was one (1) imitation statue of a warrior and nothing else. I may have missed the other decor, though, because I took two steps in and was assaulted by the stench of smoke and alcohol and had to turn around immediately.

We woke up the next day and went to see the terra-cotta warriors!!! Chelsea and I get super bored on tours, but the other girls really wanted a tour guide, so we split up and Chelsea and I went to look on our own while the other girls took a guide. Part of our DIY tour was sitting in the pit 3 area while reading Wikipedia about the history of it all. Very informative. Can you imagine just digging a well on your farm one day and discovering a whole underground clay army from centuries ago? I’m shook they’ve only known about this for the past 40 years. Also being the archaeologists who get to uncover and restore them? Neato.

On their tour, the other girls got to meet one of the farmers who discovered the warriors, so that’s cool. Definitely missed out there. But they also got taken to a jade museum where they got talked into buying some /super/ pricey jade (because Xi’an is like the jade capital of the China?) and I am not jealous of that. (Note: they are happy with their purchases and that is awesome for them. I’ve just read a ton of posts and reviews and looked up prices elsewhere and it all sounds sketchy to me, so if you ever go to Xi’an, be aware of that.)

While they were on their 4 hour tour, we were bargaining in the shops. Chelsea is an amazing bargainer. I’ve decided I’m not buying anything unless she buys it because I know she’ll never stop bargaining it down until it’s the lowest it will possibly go. You would not believe her skills. Like the jade rings we got? (might be fake, but they withstood all the tests. Also who has to know it’s fake?) 80 yuan down to 5 yuan. (You could say “there’s no way it was real if they sold them to you for 5 yuan” and maybe that’s true, but if jade really is that common there (the mountain is just filled with it) then is it really that rare and precious? Just a thought.)

I got a little terra-cotta figurine and the lady told me it was handmade (in contrast to the machine made ones right next to it.) I don’t know what the originally price was but she gave it to me for 10 yuan. Rach bought one on her tour and it was a little bigger but it looked exactly the same and she paid ten times what I did. They told her it was made with the same clay as the actual warriors and that it was different than the ones sold out in the markets because those ones will disappear if you put them in water (???? Who is putting them in water???)

I say: it will literally sit on a shelf as a reminder of the day I rode a bus for an hour out to a random place to look at a pit filled with many clay men. I have no doubt that both hers and mine were made the same way and I honestly can just tell myself it was made from the same clay and feel great in my ignorance.

Tour guides are swindlers, man. But they have good stories sometimes.

That night we went to the drum and bell towers and there was a place where they had fresh cut fruit and they gave you a big plastic bowl and said you could fill it 2 kilo for 34 yuan. I just wanna say it was too expensive but it was freakin delicious and I’d do it again.

The next day we biked the city wall. Xi’an is the only city who’s wall has remained completely in tact. It was a really cool ride but they give you racer bikes and all I wanted was a cute basket and handlebars that were higher than the seat. It was really bumpy and I’m surprised my glasses stayed on the whole time. I really wanted to bike it at golden hour (like right before the sun set) because I hear that’s the most beautiful, but it was ok this way, too. If I could do it again, though, I’d do golden hour all the way.

Leaving the hostel was probably the hardest part of leaving the city? But it was a dope place. Could definitely spend longer there. I love that everywhere you go in China, there is dancing when the sun goes down. We walked the Main Street last night and every ten meters there was a different group with a giant speaker, blasting music and dancing. One of these days, I’m joining them.

Until then, catch me in Beijing. ✌️

Ring around the Wrong Finger (probably)

Ok so I had a pretty weird encounter.

Last week in Zhangjiajie, Rachel bought a ring at the market. It was like a green glass ring (looked kinda like Jade) and it was only 5 yuan, but she liked it a lot. Then one day, she dropped in the shower and it shattered (the people at the jade shop say it’s because it was protecting me. I say it’s because it was a cheap fake?) . So today, at the shops, I saw some rings and thought I could spare 5 yuan to buy Rach another ring.

I asked the lady how much they were and she pointed to the price tag where it said 80 yuan! So I was like “yikes nevermind I don’t want it” and she asked me to give her a price I would pay (like to bargain). The only price I would have paid was 5 yuan, but I wasn’t about to insult her by saying “yeah How about you lower the price 75 yuan,” so I just tried to say no. I was still in the shop waiting for Chelsea to buy her stuff, and so the lady kept lowering her price, showing me the tests of how it scratches glass (rag she dragged it along the glass case and it scratched it!) and doesn’t burn (like glass does) when you scrape it against itself (trying to show its real Jade) and finally said “ok 30 yuan!”

80 to 30 by just not wanting it, that’s the secret.

I was still not going to spend that kind of money on a ring ($6 would break the bank, yknow?) so I, again, said no. Chelsea came over and said “we found a shop that sold them for 5, so that’s what we were expecting.” The lady looked shocked and said “5 yuan???” And I, feeling bad and trying to be nice, was like “maybe it was fake? I don’t know?”

She was puzzled for a second and I thought we’d settled it and she goes “ok 5 yuan.” Just like that! What!!!!! So heck I bought me one, too. Mine was black though because I like black rings.

So I gave Rachel the green ring and asked her to marry me (because that’s a standard thing you have to do if you ever give a ring to anyone, right?) and our whole group was just sitting eating fruit by the Xi’an drum tower and a Chinese girl about our age comes up to me and says (very sweetly) “Hi I’m sorry, I’m a Christian and uh” and she shows me her phone and i in google translate it says

“Are you asexual?”

So at this point, I am confused because

1. Like, maybe? I’ve been asking myself that, too, and

2. What kind of person has the sixth sense to sniff out asexuals? Is it something I’m wearing? Do I just seem like that kind of person?

So, very confusedly (and probably laughing because freakin Rachel is dying of laughter) I said no, and she shows me her other google translate that said “I just think it’s interesting because I don’t know very much about it.” And then she says “oh I’m sorry” and walks away.

And like, I am so confused at this point? and I’m laughing, which I feel bad about, but Rachel is not helping, and the girls who asked me are just standing at a distance and pointing to their fingers, and I think of my ring. And I’m like “oh is that a thing in China where asexuals wear black rings???” And then I realize—

RACHEL AND I ARE BOTH WEARING OUR RINGS ON OUR RING FINGERS. GOOGLE TRANSLATE IS OFTEN UNRELIABLE; WHAT IF SHE MEANT HOMOSEXUAL.

So anyway now I feel bad because the Chinese girl is probably embarrassed and I’m embarrassed and Rachel is probably still laughing but now that we’re asexually engaged we got cheese fries and cheesecake to celebrate.

Note: ok I wrote this last night and then I wondered if she could have indeed meant asexual, so I googled it and APPARENTLY it totally is a thing that asexuals wear black rings on the middle finger of their right hands (not specifically in China, just in general). I don’t remember which ring my finger was on, in all honesty. I think it was the ring finger but it may have been the middle. BUT If she did mean this, though, why did she lead with “I’m a Christian”? And also, if I had said yes, uh, what then? I speak into her google translate and explain it to her? What kind of conversation would that be? How incredibly random.

???????????

Zhangjiajie ft. Me

Alright so here’s the situation: you’re at the train station. You pick up your ticket. You have about two hours until your train leaves. Thinkin of hittin up one of the three KFCs in that train station for dinner. And then you realize:

You’re at the wrong train station. The one your train leaves from is across town. It’s rush hour traffic right now.

Do you:

⚪️ Open the DiDi (Chinese Uber) app and order a DiDi before you even exit the train station and then realize you have no idea how to exit the train station

⚪️ Run around aimlessly trying to find the exit, considering climbing over barriers, running after people who look like they know where they’re going, all while taxi drivers try to convince you to let them drive you for double the price of a DiDi

⚪️ Ditch half the group and leave them to fend for themselves and find their own way to the other train station (don’t worry, they knew how to DiDi)

🔘 All of the Above

I was trying to contact our driver to let him know our location, but data is terrible and nothing would send. Not because of the terrible data, though, but because of the inappropriate nature of what I said, which was: “we are by parking garage 13.” The app said it would not translate or send that because “This message contains inappropriate content.” I don’t know what parking garage translates to but uh?

??????????? How bad could it be?

The driver did eventually find us and when he did, I showed him my ticket and what time our train left and asked “will we make it in time?!?” To which he said “…no..” so I decided he couldn’t understand me and prayed that we would. And guess what. We made it. We got out of the car and booked it, the other girls coming up in a taxi right behind us, and then we weaved in and out of Chinese people, running to catch our train.

Then it left late. 🤷‍♀️

I’ve heard a lot of stories about Chinese trains, but luckily I didn’t experience any of them.

Didn’t have to stop in the middle of the night to pee in a trough ✅

Didn’t have to stand for 15+ hours ✅

No mysterious liquids on the ground ✅

However, we did have to sit upright overnight for like… 14 hours? And that was.. rough. But I met a little kid who was pretty cool and knew how to say “what’s your name?” So we had that conversation quite a few times. Yet still I forgot his name because it was a Chinese name.

We got into Zhangjiajie at 9:40ish am and ate at this cute little bakery right by the train station and then went to our hostel which was a pretty neat place. After checking in we headed to the National Park, which was harder to find than we thought it would be. A few wrong busses (and a correct bus) later and we were in the AVATAR MOUNTAINS.

So Day One At Zhangjiajie National Park:

It was honestly one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. The picturesque pond, the stony mountains, the random giant heart lock on the ground just for kicks? Just an awesome scenery. Then half the group ditched us to go hike somewhere because we got tied up in looking at dragon pillow souvenirs that I didn’t even commit to buying. Shucks.

So we found some stairs to climb that went to the Huangshei Village and we had the ~brilliant~ idea to climb them thinking that uh…there was a cable car up top to bring us down?

(Yeah that’s a thing in China, you don’t really hike up mountains, you climb stairs to the top of a mountain. A lot of stairs. Who needs a stair master when you have the mountains in China.) we hiked with a shirtless Chinese dude for a bit and then he stopped and took some stuff back down so we went on alone. We never actually talked to him or anything, and he honestly probably thought we were just out of shape Americans.

So 3000+ stairs later and you’d think the view was awesome but our timing had us looking at some sick fog instead. There was a cool lookin pagoda up there too. Had to get the jumping picture.

And there were a bunch of people at the top of this lookout and we would occasionally just hear this “ooooooo” sound, so we climbed up to see what was going on and every time the fog cleared even a little to where you could see the mountains, they really ate that up. So we cheered along and then I took a video where I (very poorly) sang Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September” while openly disproving the line “never was a cloudy day.” You can find it on the ‘gram. Though you probs don’t want to.

Then we hiked down (because we couldn’t find the cable cars…or the village, tbh) and that’s when I counted the stairs. Then it got dark and we exited the park while a taxi driver harassed us because he really wanted to give us a ride (aka take our $$) but we found a bus instead and man let me tell you, after a 13 hour bus all night and and a 3000+ stair hike all afternoon, we smelled pretty rank. Holla at the showers.

Day Two:

We hit the Yellow Dragon Cave and spoiler: there was no dragon. and it wasn’t even that yellow. Honestly I was a little let down because it was just a cave with different colored lights in it but we still ended up climbing about 800 stairs (#werk) and taking a neat lil boat ride so it was not a complete loss.

Also, in the cave, there are two gates that you have to choose between—the gate of happiness and the gate of wealth. They lead to the same place (hahaha) but it posed an interesting question: would I rather happily live in squalor or be able to dry my tears with dolla bills? We all chose happiness but we came through the wealth gate on the way back and does that mean I’ll be happy and rich? Or double poor and extra happy? Or neither because I chose to get greedy in a Chinese cave? Or neither because literally it’s a cave? I mean either one, I think I’d be fine with.

On the way to the cave, there was this lady taking a picture of her friend in front of this little pagoda thing over the bridge and she came up to me with her camera so naturally, I expected she wanted me to take a picture of her and her friend, and naturally, I was wrong. She asked me if I would take a picture with her friend. So now I am captured in the memory of a Chinese lady’s trip to Zhangjiajie. Magical.

There were street shops outside and we practiced our bargaining skills. Got pretty good. Realized that no matter how low the price, I still didn’t want any of the stuff. But I got a cool magnet for 5 yuan so I scored big. Also the ice cream was way good.

Afterward we went to ride a cable car up to…. a mountaintop where there was supposed to be a McDonald’s but it was closed. Alas, Rachel’s McDonald’s fast was in vain. (She wanted her first McDonald’s in a foreign country to be on top of the mountain, so she purposely avoided McDonald’s until then for that very reason.)

Getting the ticket was insane for me, though, ok? So we get student discounts with our international student cards and it’s half off, which is a pretty sweet deal. So it’s going well and I haven’t had a problem until I go up to this ticket window, and the lady is like (through google translate) “I can’t sell to you with the discount because you’re 25.” And like FIRST of all— I have like three months until I’m 25 so excuse you. SECOND of all— why no discounts at 25? am I all of a sudden assumed “not poor” at 25? Is that what the chinese think is a “get your life together already” age? I guess I can’t really argue there.

Anyway, that was a fight and I was upset, but we skirted around that issue and never had it again! The cable car was cool but I was stressed out because they were standing up and taking pictures and I was worried we might fall. Which we didn’t (shocking). Also another local wanted a pic with me so…is this fame?

When the McDonald’s was closed, we hiked down the mountain and I counted the steps (again) and it was about 3000 (again). But it was cooler this time because we happened upon a pack of MONKEYS. And they had babies! One was so close to us!

Then we had to catch a taxi home and that kinda hurt the wallet but then I remind myself that $1 is 6.8 yuan and that the 70 (per person) yuan fare is like $10 which is actually extremely cheap. Perspective.

And because we were in the McD’s mindset, we sought one out for dinner. The nug life is still goin strong in China, my nuggaz.

Day 3:

We woke up really early and went to the park in the pouring rain where I did not have an umbrella, poncho, or shoe covers. So you know what I got? Stopped, every two feet, by a different lady selling ponchos, shoe covers, and umbrellas. I finally bought an umbrella and it stopped raining pretty soon thereafter, but the bargain I got was worth it. Also it was a pretty sweet umbrella. It says “China” on the handle (as opposed to “made in China,” lest I forget where I bought it.)

We walked around the park, took a bus, did a mini hike, arrived at a convent in the mountains. I thought it was super cool and thought “oh hey I could totally be a nun in these mountains” (or whatever the Buddhist female equivalent of a monk is) and then Adaline reminded me that it would be hard to deliver pizza all the way up there and I reconsidered. Idk man I like pizza but that is such a beautiful place to live.

I tried to look inside the building but there were men smoking and playing cards in the doorway so I don’t think it was open for visitors. Also safe to say it’s not a very religious place anymore.

We hiked (walked) along the river and there was this business that you could pay two men to carry you on a chair along the river. Only 300 yuan to live like royalty.

Also we saw people taking wedding pictures. Can you imagine bridals in the avatar mountains???? Wild. And here is a selection of my panoramas that look vaguely the same yet different because I haven’t had time to go through and decide which is my fave.

We came back to the hostel early and I did some laundry (because stairs + humidity + rain = sweat = gross = my backpack smells very nasty) and guess what it didn’t even dry completely before I had to pack up the next day and take all my clothes home where I would inevitably do the same laundry again.

This is Rach and I atop the hostel roof doing my laundry (the washer was on the fifth floor, aka the roof, aka the place I didn’t leave for a full half hour because no way was I climbing down and back up more stairs to leave and come back to my wet clothes).

(Waiting for the day when pictures load…..)

We ate dinner at the hostel because we were too exhausted to leave and I had Kung Pao chicken in China. Honestly I think I like our (‘Mercia) version better (uncultured white girl) but also it was the least sketchy meat I’ve seen in this country and for that, I was thankful.

Day 4:

Imagine: more stairs.

So this day, we did Tiananmen Mountain, home of the ~world’s longest cable car.~ It was raining (shook) and the top was just fog. Straight up.

So we walked around until we found this entrance for a trans-mountain escalator? I was intrigued, so I checked it out, and it was exactly what I thought. It was probably 7 or so SUPER LONG escalators that took us down the mountain. What?

(Should’ve taken a pic but I was honestly so shook they put so many escalators in a mountain)

Then we came out at the heavenly gate, which was pretty cool in the fog.

But then the only thing I wanted to do at Tiananmen mountain was hike the Stairway to Heaven but we started at the top and the only way to go was down?

So did I descend into hell or just get more down to earth?

Apparently there was a guy who was wearing a shirt that said “Highway to Hell” while hiking the stairway to Heaven. I guess he had a change of heart but didn’t have time to make a change of shirt? Idk man the Highway to Hell sounds a lot less painful but idk.

After descending, I wanted to hike it, so I convinced a couple of them to do it with me. Apparently the number nine means luck and good fortune in China, so the stairway to Heaven is 999 steps, but you know me… I counted. And either I’m really bad at counting (even though I did on the way up and the way down) or Heaven is full of liars a gullible followers, because there were only like 906 stairs. I felt cheated but my quads were kind of thankful.

The road we took in the bus down was apparently the road with 99 turns. I did not count because that honestly sounds pretty awful. I was focusing on breathing because the nausea was strong.

Then we played games at the hostel for the rest of the afternoon. Our train came at 5 and it was a 13 hour sleeper train and it was beautiful. Honestly was a little worried about it but they gave us blankets and a pillow and I was set. Also there was another little kid and he was singing a weird English song but my word he was a cutie. Big fan of children and Chinese sleeper trains.

That was our short vacation. We got home, I got sick, then it was Friday and we’re literally on another 8 hour train going on our long vacation. Yeah Xi’an, let’s kick it.

Also how do you say sudafed in Chinese because I need that stuff.

Just Another Mangkhut Monday

Before the typhoon, talking to the Chinese teachers who live below us:

Me: Nina, what if your room floods?

Nina: it won’t, I’ve never seen that happen

Me: we’re going to the market to get flashlights in case the power goes out

Jonna: no need, I’ve been through many typhoons and the power has never gone out.

During the typhoon:

The first floor (where Nina’s room is) floods knee deep, AND the power goes out, taking the WiFi with it. Smh.

Local time is 11am on Monday and outside is calm, cloudy, and a little rainy and windy; the only evidence that a storm passed through here this weekend is all the leaves and fallen branches in the street.

Well, that, and the insane heat that we’re all dying of thanks to the A/C going out with the power.

Somewhere in the not-too-distant distance, a rooster caws, just like he has been since SIX IN THE MORNING.

We live on the third floor of a house which sucks when heat rises and we have to climb up all the stairs while we’re all already dripping with sweat, but is pretty nice when all our stuff doesn’t get ruined by typhoon flooding.

Also I just hit myself in the face trying to fan myself with a plastic slate, so that’s probably the most dangerous part of this storm for me.

Our living quarters are pretty cramped, so we all kinda hung out on our beds for the weekend, which wasn’t the /most/ fun I’ve ever had, but it’s pretty close.

On Saturday night we asked Alice to order pizza for us (like call and order because we don’t speak Chinese), (don’t worry the storm hadn’t started yet) and instead they went to Pizza Hut for us and got us a stuffed crust pineapple pizza and you know what??? It didn’t suck. But the cost was equal to more US dollars than I would typically spend on a pizza. Oh the sacrifices. But it was an excellent pre-typhoon meal.

Before the storm, I had to call and talk to the ILP office about a bunch of precautionary things and something they said was to stay away from windows.

Uhhh…there is not a possible way we could have stayed away from windows. In our rooms? Giant windows. Bathroom? Windows. In the hallway? Sliding glass door. The landing between the first and second floor? Giant old window that won’t even close.

Then I went down to see Alice and Jonna and they were just chillin with their windows open during the whole storm, like no big deal.

These people have too much chill during typhoons.

Last night when the power was out, we lit some candles and played some card games. We joked that it looked like a sacrificing ritual.

Then Alice went to the neighbor’s house to make enough noodles to feed the whole house. Yknow, while the first floor and area outside the house was flooded knee-deep. Priorities: in China, it’s noodles.

Anyway, typhoons work hard but the Chinese work harder. We are alive, safe, and the AC just came back on so #blessed.

Note: Typhoon Mangkhut was the biggest storm to hit China in the past few decades. It was a category 5 storm and it hit Hong Kong pretty close and then proceeded to Zhongshan (Guangdong province) where it downgraded to a lesser storm after hitting the coast and coming more inland. Here is a photo of it in relation to hurricane Florence.

Read more at: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/china-typhoon-mangkhut-floods-rain-guangdong-10727500

The Chiner Things In Life

Super Typhoon Mangkhut has officially stepped into Zhongshan and I am -losing it.-

Pretty excited, pretty apprehensive, mostly just ~really curious to experience this type of storm. It’s about as strong as hurricane Florence buuuut I think it lost power after tearing up the Philippines? But also I’ve heard a lot of conflicting information so I don’t know. Storms are unpredictable, just like my hair in humidity.

So China has been actually pretty cool? The humidity is melting me and so I looked up humidity in comparison to the Netherlands (where I lived for a year and a half) and this humidity here is 93% while there it is 100% and I honestly don’t know how I survived it. I step outside and it’s a baptism of my own sweat every day. Air conditioners are China’s greatest invention. (Actually idk who invented it but China seems like a safe bet.)

So many things to update so let’s BEGIN.

When The Saints Go Marching In

Going to church on Sunday’s is an all day experience. They pick us up at 6am, we go to other schools in the Zhongshan area to pick them up, and then we trek over to Shenzhen where the branch meets at 10am. (Idk if you can math, but that is 4 hours one way on a bus.)

It costs about 10-15 bucks depending on how many come and split the bus cost. When they drop out last minute and make the price go up, it gives me very unchristlike feelings. Which is unfortunate for a sabbath. Especially when 8 of those sabbath hours are spent ON A BUS.

The first week, it was pouring and the streets were flooding and watching them try to drive when the roads are flooding is hilarious. I have pictures but they don’t do it justice.

The church building is just a house that was repurposed as a church and I thought someone very dedicated lived there and was and I was impressed. Turns out I have been fooled.

It’s a foreign branch, so most the members are American. However, it’s not because of what you think! A FALSE myth that people believe is that Chinese people do not have freedom of religion. But they do! There are several Chinese branches with Chinese leadership that operate in mainland China. However, they are not allowed to practice with foreigners. I’m not super sure why, but they are pretty strict about it. We’re not allowed to discuss religion, but we can tell Chinese people that we go to church and that’s about it.

Teacher’s Day

So the Chinese are really into teacher’s day which is -sweet- because they took us out to the crazy restaurant with all the Chinese teachers and served us goose.

Like, all the parts of the goose. The feet, the meat, and the BLOOD.

It was this squishy gray stuff and I should not have asked what it was because I was not prepared to hear it. I died a little inside as I watched the other teachers try it.

Then one of our cooks is named Mikey and he was out with us and the girls are girls so they were talking to the girl (Chinese) teachers trying to set him up with someone and so adaline went to ask him how old he is, because, well, that’s important for set ups, right? And seriously everybody got SO weird about it and thought she was interested in him. Even with a language barrier, we could feel the maturity of that room become so high school. So don’t ask Chinese men their age if you’re not interested ok?

It was actually hilarious though so no regrets. Though I’m sure adaline might have some…

(Mikey is on the…(second guesses my knowledge of right and left)… right?? He’s the younger one)

We took this pretty sweet bus there and back and on the way back we were just bonding with the Chinese teachers by belting Lady Gaga songs and if that ain’t the right way to celebrate teacher’s day, I’m content doin it the wrong way.

The British Are Coming

Actually they already came but I like the headline so I’m using it. Nina told us that we were going to have to share our office with three more English teachers who will be teaching at the school sometimes. Two of them are from the UK and at first I was miffed because hello? They talk funny and say things like “rubbish”? Also I was miffed because hello? Aren’t the seven of us good enough for you?

But then I met the UK teachers and they’re really sweet and so I have no qualms. However, I was caught off guard the first time I talked to her and all she said was “cheers” when I told her I’d leave the door open for her. Tally ho, lassie.

“I Have People That I Know In China” -DJ Trump

Alice and Jonna, two of the Chinese teachers who live below us, took us to the mall in the next city over and took us to these amazing restaurants where they had Chinese pizza (like it’s not worthy to be called pizza but it’s still good) and spicy green beans. I love that everything is spicy here. I’m livin for it. But I am NOT livin for them only serving boiling hot water in tiny fetchin cups. I’m also not living for the body getting used to different foods while you’re options for toilets are mostly squatters.

She also said she’d take us to this donut shop and showed us pictures of how good they looked and taught us how to say donut in Chinese and then…. we couldn’t find the donuts 😦 so the next night, they brought us a box of donut magnets and a sweet note and I could have cried it was so sweet. Also I thought they were real donuts and I almost shoved one in my face until they said we can’t eat them.

Show me someone who doesn’t think that’s the sweetest thing and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t have a heart. Or a donut magnet.

On our way to the bus stop, there was a man who tapped my shoulder and wanted to sell me a bird. He had quite the selection but I’m honestly concerned at how he got these animals and why he was walking through the streets with a cart selling them to Americans.

“Hm, this person is clearly a tourist and doesn’t speak my language, she must need a bird to complete her China experience”

And now its time for the best segment of Heckfest in China: engrish

And we found LOT at the bookstores and stores. Enjoy:

a STUDENT was wearing the shirt that said “trashy”

Wow.

Some other interesting things:

We take a cooking class with our boi Jim (the cook) and we made Chinese cookies this week! They were pretty dang good.

Nina has been teaching us Chinese classes and today we learned how to count. We took a DiDi to the store today (Chinese version of Uber) and thought we’d impress the driver by counting out what we owed him in Chinese. We got to three before he got impatient and just said “okokokokok”

And lastly we have successfully completely two(ish) weeks of teaching! My favorite quote about the kids so far

Someone: how is arts and crafts with the juniors? How does that’s work?

Rachel: well, Elwin started eating the beads…

I promise to update more frequently: the next post following up with 1. if we are still alive and 2. an exclusive interview with Elwin on the taste of beads.

People Say I Don’t Like China; I Love China

If you understand the title reference, I’m pretty proud. If not, I’m pretty sure most of my blog titles while in China are going to be directly from DJ Trump’s mouth because I think its peak humor, so you should watch the link I have in my “When Jesus Takes the Wheel” post.

The longest nonstop flight I’ve ever taken was ten hours: Frankfurt to Denver on my way home from Russia. This flight was sixteen hours! Dallas to Hong Kong! We were fed three meals and the strangest thing by far was the plastic, tinfoil topped water cup. Like bagged milk is whatever, but Canada what the fetch?

I was briefly completely content with going down in the Pacific Ocean (arctic?) but then the seat next to me was unoccupied and so I reconsidered my will to live and now I’m in China so re-evaluation might be on the agenda.

Just kidding, I’m diggin it. China isn’t really as wild as I thought it would be and thankfully our house has toilets, not squatters, so #blessed. But is is beautiful! It is SO green and the buildings are so cool. Some are really similar to western architecture, but some are just really unique. I flew into Hong Kong and was really surprised when it was cloudy and rainy outside at 78 degrees. That’s not something I’ve ever experienced 😂 I was really excited to be off the plane and really excited to be in Hong Kong (!!!!!) so I took a picture with my visa and instagrammed it and the ONLY PERSON with the nerve to tell me that it was my Russian visa that I took a picture with was my Russian host mom. So all you other people who liked that photo? Fake.

Anyway I was embarrassed for a solid three hours after she told me that and then I posted a pic with my Chinese visa to make up for it and now weird people are following me like should I probably not have posted an official document like that on the internet? Maybe? Hm natural selection probably should’ve weeded me out by now.

Anyway, the rain in the Guangdong Province, specifically Zhongshan (where we are), is inSANE. So the flights in were delayed/cancelled and I got into the airport at 10pm (only an hour after I was supposed to), waited until one of my girls got in, waited until a bunch of other teachers for other schools got in, and then took a bus ride (that Nina (our coordinator) SAID would be two hours (it was 4) to our apartment and settled in/waited for the others to come. Most the group got stranded in Beijing because of a cancelled flight. I was a little bummed because I brought a hot pink poster board to make a welcome sign for them and then I didn’t even get to make it. Also not bummed because I definitely got the room with the good WiFi. (pic from our balcony)

We live in a house with 25 Chinese teachers, but we never really have to see them because we’re on the third floor and they are all on the first two floors. We have two rooms (three of us in one room, four in the other) (bunk bed life, holla) and each room has a bathroom. The air conditioning is arguably the best thing about the rooms… my word it’s hot and muggy here.

So some things that have happened so far:

The bus ride home was so crazy because we kept having to turn around when roads were too flooded to drive down. Also, at one point, the bus driver just casually stopped in the middle of the road, put the bus in park, and got up to kill the bee that was buzzing around in there. What a guy. (Pls do not be triggered by the man killing the bee. He was just trying to help Nina who was scurred. I’m not sure which type of bee it was but hopefully it has a rich posterity.)

We also passed four people on a motorcycle so wow. To be that small.

We went to get lunch at this noodle place and it was basically Pho. Pretty good. I got the kind with chicken and as it turns out, I am the chicken, because it had bones and skin on it and so I stayed away and only ate the noodles. I can tell you I do not plan on being adventurous with the foods I try here. Sorry to disappoint.

Today we went to lunch at this really awesome place! There were a ton of paper lanterns all over the trees in the parking lot and hanging from the roof.

They had this glass rotating platform on top of the table and they just put everything on there and then you just order a bunch of food to share and then rotate it around instead of passing the food. First of all: genius. Second of all: delicious. There was rice, noodles, this porridge stuff that had a super strange texture but tasted like chicken noodle soup, four different kinds of rolls with different things stuffed in them, dumplings, pork, rice paper. Oh and for breakfast we had rolls stuffed with creamed red beans and it was sweet and weird but mostly pretty dang good. I am really loving the Chinese bread. Huge fan.

We went to see our school and it is gorgeous! Except they just sprayed for roaches so there are a bunch of dead ones around. Better dead than alive?

It’s mainly open to the outdoors except for the classrooms and offices. Each room has a name and then says “is managed by _name_” and on the office that is mine (I have an office whoa) it says “is managed by Rachel.” So Rachel thought she was pretty cool because “Rachel” was like “in charge” of my office so I said “I’m pretty sure that means that’s the person who cleans it and fixes stuff in it” and she disagreed so I asked Nina and guess who was right?? I’m pretty sure Rachel doesn’t wanna “manage” my office anymore.

We then had a meeting where Nina showed us a PowerPoint that some other ILP China English school made and it was riddled with errors (like “notice your coordinator if…” instead of “notify”) and so I told her I had an English degree (getting at: I would love to help edit it) and she *very* sarcastically exclaimed “wow,” complete with her hand to her chest and a shocked expression. Savage, Nina. I’ll just let the next groups laugh at this presentation.

This was the favorite slide. It meant to say “when you are here, we are sad when it is messy,” but you can see what it looked like…

(Note: Nina is actually so fun and sweet and hilarious and I wouldn’t change a thing about her.)

It is 6:57pm as I write this from our balcony and it is already dark. That’s the consequence of China spanning 5 time zones and accepting only one of them. On this line of longitude in Australia, I’m pretty sure it’s like 10pm.

*

*

*

Hi I just checked and in Perth it is the same time. How??? Ugh.

So sometimes it can be hard traveling but I’m learning to find pros for every con.

Con: the air smells funny here

Pro: there is air to breathe

Con: the WiFi doesn’t work super well

Pro: more time to be here, now, not worrying about what’s going on elsewhere

Con: it’s raining a lot

Pro: more ~~moisture~~ to thank the good lord for.

Here are some airport engrish translations that are pretty good:

So this isn’t actually engrish so much as I’m an idiot and forgot stowage is a word so I’m reading it as “storage” with a lisp.

hm yeah so like I’d really like to use an enabled toilet if we could arrange that… just a preference

Automated people mover. I thought that meant the treadmill walking things but now I’m looking at that picture and uh. Is it a train? So many automated things move people, yknow? Also not even I know the word for that treadmill walking thing so maybe I’m the idiot here because automated people mover is pretty good?

And idk what’s in the caring corner but it seems a little weird to put in an airport? But idk I think I could probably use one right now. And I definitely could’ve used one after traveling for like 30 hours.

I should’ve hit that place up.

Anyway. I’m in China!!!!!! Freakin yikes my dudes.

One Week

I have about two jokes in my arsenal: (confession, I don’t really know what an arsenal is but it makes me a little uncomfortable that it has the word arse in it??) (also I just looked it up and apparently it means a collection of weapons. So…because these jokes are not dangerous, I guess I have no joke arsenal.)

Anyway, I’ve been telling the same joke since a girl in my Junior Girl Scout troop blessed me with it. And now I’ll pay it forward:

Q: Why did the baby cross the road?

A: To get the Chinese newspaper. Do you get it?

(This is the part where some people laugh and pretend to get it because they don’t want to look dumb and it’s sad because they definitely look pretty dumb.)

Punchline: The person is supposed to say “no,” at which point, I say, “neither do I, I get the Denver Post”

Hahahahaha right? Isn’t that hilarious? Is it hilariously dangerous enough for an arsenal?

Anyway, I’m about to GO TO CHINA where I will DEFINITELY get it (the Chinese newspaper, of course). So that’s cool.

So yeah, in a week, I’ll be catching a flight to Dallas where I’ll catch a flight to Hong Kong (!!!!!!!) where I’ll catch a flight to Changzhou, where I’ll catch a bus to Zhongshan, where I will be LIVING FOR FOUR MONTHS.

Last week I had four (4) days of training and the best part was that they catered Panda Express for lunch one day. Seriously gonna miss that orange chicken.

We learned that we’ll be living in a three story apartment with 25 Chinese teachers who teach at the school with us! well also be sharing a home with cockroaches and mosquitos so… ~adventure~ is~ calling~~~

Don’t you love how you can look at a really unpleasant sounding situation, and then just turn it around by calling it an adventure? Like… squatter toilets? ~adventure~ sharing a fridge between 30+ people? ~adventure~ standing for 25 hours on a train so you can get the cheapest transportation to the other side of the country?? ~~~~~adventure~~~~~~

So anyway. I’m remembering the two Chinese girls I taught on my (lds) mission and they were the some of the sweetest people I came across in the Netherlands. One of them, Sara, made us “dessert” one time and, I kid you not, it was like… vegetable soup. And then when we said we don’t drink tea, only herbal tea, she looked surprised and said “wow you are so healthy!” As I’m sitting right in front of her, approximately 2.5 times the size of her, thinking that dessert is not actually vegetable soup. Yes. Healthy.

Anyway, they told us about 16 times in training not to “Netflix our semester away” because that’s always my first thought in a foreign country. Netflix.

Anyway, if you have any tips for dealing with cockroaches, mosquitos, annoying (American) bunk mates (you know who you are) or vegetable soup disguised as dessert, hit. me. up.

Otherwise, I’ll check ya later from China.

✌️

When Jesus Takes The Wheel

So I was waiting until I got my official assignment/until I took a worthy enough picture to announce that I am —

Going to China!

I leave August 28 and will come back December 17.

You might be thinking “Tyf? Why? You just graduated, shouldn’t you get a big kid job and stop avoiding your inevitable life of adulthood and doom?”

And see, I would do that, but I figured I could just as easily be an adult and doomed in China.

Ok actually this is how it all went down. A few years ago, I went to teach English with this program called the International Language Program in Russia. It was tight. I met some pretty chill Americans in my group and someone who I am ~convinced~ is the coolest Russian woman in all the world (she was my host mom. Holla. Ira, if you’re reading this, what’s crack in the hood, homie?)

Anyway, I really liked being a teacher–my students were like 12 and so awesome– and we got to travel all through Russia. And the deal with this program is you pay a fee to go volunteer and then if you go again as a head teacher, you don’t have to pay. Legit right?

So I was going to do it last year, but I backed out because of some reasons…. Then, this year, that program (ILP) was having an info meeting where they gave out free food (they really know their audience) and I convinced my roommate to come. I had previously talked to her about it and I was like “oh hey, she’s been wanting to go to this food place, I’ve been telling her about his program, I should take her to the meeting.”

So then I somehow ended up really pumping her up about how we should do the program together and unexpectedly, she signed up. So then I was like “uhhh….I guess I can’t make her do it alone…” she’s like this 18 y/o who’s never been out of Utah/Idaho (and if she could say something here she’d say “excuse me, I’ve been to Canada AND Mexico,” so my mistake, she’s a seasoned traveler. She just doesn’t know which continent Mexico belongs to…)

So I was like “Jesus take the wheel” and applied for head teacher.

And what do you know, Jesus is driving (flying?) us to Zhongshan.

Well I wish this post was funnier but believe you, me. There are some funny stories/translations/sights ahead. Right now the funniest thing I can think of in this topic is the YouTube video of Trump saying China over and over. Here, enjoy:

Trump Says China

HaCkEd LoL🤪

Ok so pardon the high school headline, but I had the most bizarre encounter with a hacker (blackmailer?) this past week and I think it’s SO. FUNNY.

So what happened is this: a few months ago, I wanted to watch Guardians of the Galaxy. I’d never seen it, the second one was on Netflix, taunting me, and so I did a very unchristian thing and *drumroll* Google’d where to watch it online for free.

Now of course I knew this would give me viruses, but I /really/ wanted to watch this movie. And I was getting a new laptop anyway, so what gives? I ended up finding a site fairly easily, but of course it came with unpleasant features, like stupid ads and even pornographic pop-ups (yikes).

Anyway, those things went away and I watched the movie. (Not even worth it, dude. I had so much more faith in a Chris Pratt movie).

Anyway, fast forward to like last week. I get this email

Keep in mind, she started the email by saying “this is your email and password” so like… I was a little freaked.

But let’s go through this piece by piece. “You visited this website to experience a little fun (you know what I mean)” like watch a movie illegally? Is that what you mean? Bc yea and it wasn’t even fun, thanks for the reminder.

“Next I made a double-screen video. First part shows the video you were watching (you have nice taste lmao)” well I’m glad you think so because I wasn’t that impressed. Looks like she’s a GotG fan.

“And the next part shows the recording of your web camera, and it’s you” ok cool 2 things: 1. You’ve… never met/seen me so how can you like… know that it’s me? And 2. Is it just like me, in my dark room, my hand pressed against my face to prop it up, just illuminated by the light from my laptop? Because not only is that dull, lifeless expression very attractive, I’m sure it’s also very exciting to watch.

“should you be in an important relationship, precisely how will it certainly affect?” I also wonder how precisely it would certainly affect. If only there was a simpler way to word that.

“I will certainly send out the video recording to your 14 friends” ok my fourteen friends? Like… who said I had 14 friends? Does she think my contact list only has 14 people? Which 14 friends???

“We will regard it as a donation” ok but why can’t we just call it blackmail like it is

“you will go on with normal life like this never took place” but why would I do that when I could blog about it I mean this is exciting material

“I have dealt with my moves” …have you? Really? What does that even mean.

“I only want to be rewarded” ok but for lying or for hacking or for speaking English in a really confusing way like I need clarity on what behavior you want me to reward

(I’d just like to say that I think people who try to speak English (as a second language) are troopers and most of the time extremely impressive for learning it. I try not to make fun of non-native speakers because I know it’s hard for them and speaking more than one language is a huge accomplishment. But if you’re using that to try and blackmail and exploit people for money? Sorry. Sympathy and support is gone. I’m not about that. If you use your knowledge/power to intentionally make others suffer, I’m not playing nice either.)

So anyway, when I got this email, I was a little freaked because she knew my main password. So I told my mom and a couple of my friends about it to talk it through and realize that it’s ridiculous. But then I also had to think: “????? I want to see this video????” Like I know if there was a video sent out, probably nobody would open it because of viruses, but I was so curious?? I’d definitely watch a recording of my facial reactions to that movie.

Anyway. Nobody I know got a video, unfortunately. But the funniest part of it was that she threatened to send a (nonexistent) video out to my contacts when she had the password to my online banking??? Like she could have done some real damage instead of make stuff up. What a phony.

And the next funniest part is:

“You will make this payment via bitcoin”

I watched an explanation and apparently one bitcoin is worth like $19000 (or was in dec. 2017, I just looked it up and now it’s worth $8,200) and I know you can buy like half a bitcoin and a fourth of bitcoin, but I would rather the ENTIRE WORLD think I watched porn than pay someone ANY amount of bitcoins.

Anyway, illegally streaming movies = bad idea. Now you know.

Saturday the 14th

Yeah so this was supposed to be posted yesterday because I had a plan but then instead I went to the reservoir with my nephews and nieces and spent the whole time trying to make sure the baby didn’t eat sand.

Mission failed, by the way.

But it was Friday the 13th yesterday which means absolutely nothing except for the fact that the last time it was Friday the 13th, I was graduating from college. And I haven’t posted an update in almost two months. So what have I been doing?

Truthfully, the other night I was eating a brownie in bed and it broke apart and the main piece fell into the sound hole of my guitar, so that’s kind of your basic picture of a post grad Tyffani in her true form.

But for real, I’ve been a little embarrassed about my life because the plans I made kind of fell through after I boasted of them and I didn’t wanna be like “jk dudes I’m a failure,” so I just waited until I wasn’t anymore. Which still hasn’t happened. But I’m fine with it now.

So how are my gigs going? If I had two more ounces of motivation, I would say gREAT. But I don’t have those two ounces, so it’s kind of like… alright. Let’s review piece by piece, shall we?

The gig about resume writing? I did a test resume and apparently that one sucked and the guy said I could try again and then never contacted me again so…radical, dude.

The VIPkid? Well I did like 6 interviews and then they were like “rofl we don’t want you” and I was upset and then I was relieved because they were pretty uppity? Like they care about too much that doesn’t matter? So I applied other places and got hired at this other platform but I turned them down because they seemed a little too uppity as well. So now I’m just waiting to be contacted by a company that ~deserves~ me. (Or a company that lets me slack, idk)

Uhh… Door Dash. So I honestly thought this was going to have interesting stories attached to it but it’s really just me, in my car, screaming. Sometimes there’s food in the seat next to me. I guess one time I did a Wal-Mart delivery to a blind man and that was an experience because I couldn’t enter his house… so I just had to like hand him his giant order at the door step…sliding the bag handles up his arm. Pretty weird. It pays pretty dang well at peak time, though. That’s a real deal.

Tutoring is where I get most of my work. I have three students (I guess two now because I just finished up with one) and I teach reading and math to elementary and middle schoolers. It’s actually really fun? Except one kid lives out in the middle of freakin nowhere and I take this insane dirt road that ate through my brand new tire this week so I’m a little bitter. Some nice truckers stopped to help me replace the tire with a spare and it was nice but I could have done it on my own because I am strong and independent (just so you know).

Remember the ukulele teacher thing? Well I’m on their sub list, so they’ll call me to sub sometimes for music lessons (guitar, uke, voice, piano) and I really enjoy it, but sometimes they give me things idk how to teach. Like piano? I can hardly play it? But I have learned how to fake it like a pro because the lessons are 30 minutes long and I am way better than the 10 year olds they throw at me. However, this week they gave me two voice students, and voice lessons are an hour long, and I was in choir for a long time but idk how to teach voice???????? My mind went completely blank and I had to search vocal warm ups on YouTube. Then I basically just sat there while they did a concert for me? Because all I know to comment on is breath support? Yikes so I need to learn more about the voice for next time.

If I had anything else going, you can assume it didn’t work out. Um. Yeah.

Other stuff that’s happened:

Taylor Swift Reputation Stadium Tour. All the awards. Including the one where I killed my feet because I wore heels and stood the whole time. Then I made a fan account on Twitter because I’m trash and now all I ever talk about is Taylor Swift and I am an embarrassment. Luckily I only ever talk to my family these days bc anyone else would be annoyed.

Twitter is also the place I document my every breath so it’s fun. If you wanna follow, check me at the following link. My @ is pretty self-explanatory.

https://mobile.twitter.com/TyffaniHoff

Select threads revolve around my dating life, actually, which let me tell you has been really pathetic and underwhelming. I actually thought I’d get a dating profile on an app and since Mutual (the Mormon one) is a joke in areas outside of Utah/Idaho, I went with Bumble because, uh, I don’t know it sounded a lot less sketchy than Tinder. So anyway, it’s like really fun and all until you actually end up talking to the other person and the conversation is like “how r u” “good how r u” “good” “oh good lol” and you realize you’d rather die alone than ever have to answer that question again.

Bumble is also unique because the girl always has to (gets to?) be the one to message first. So I ran out of good openers pretty quickly so I started just sending memes. Honestly, I would be thrilled to get a meme, but many of them did not seem to enjoy. So I had to change my bio to “if you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my memes.” But then you get the dudes who don’t read the bios??? U n m a t c h.

(Fun fact that meme with the options on convo topics prompted a really cool convo on serial killer facts but then I didn’t know where to go from there so I just let it die.)

I’ve always been super against dating apps because I believe they are full of shallow people/ they make people shallow, and I’m not really interested in that. Now that I’ve participated in the online dating game, I gotta say my opinion hasn’t really changed. For example, in real life, a guy is a dog person, and I’m like–I can live with that. Online, they put on their profile that dogs are better than cats? Hard swipe left. A guy quotes The Office in real life? Ok, whatever. On his dating profile? Must be a tool. 🤷‍♀️ I don’t make the rules. But winners look like this:

I don’t understand how it works for some people, it was fun for like 3 days and then it seemed like a chore. But I had to keep it up because my, like, 3 twitter followers were invested in my bumbleboy swiping saga and I couldn’t let them down.

Bumbleboy Bios thread

https://mobile.twitter.com/TyffaniHoff/status/1000710963627151361

Memes and Responses thread

https://mobile.twitter.com/TyffaniHoff/status/1003418147771289600

Oh and then I actually did get asked out in real life at the gym one night (because I’ve never looked better than after I sweat for an hour) and that was… well to be honest, I could have lived without that encounter. But you can read all about that on Twitter, too.

https://mobile.twitter.com/TyffaniHoff/status/1012828056740745217

Ok and so yeah I think you’re all caught up. I was giving a rundown of my life to an old friend last week and said something like “you know sometimes I have those days where I wake up at noon and need a nap at 3” and she was like “no you don’t sleep that much??” And wow was I embarrassed by my existence at that moment. So I had to be like “lol Sharon, of course, I would never” *yikes*

So anyway, she told me I was going to eventually have to grow up and be an adult but let me just say something here: everybody’s adulthood journey looks different. Some people work full time, 9-5. Some people work nights. Some people get married and become parents. And some people sit on their bed at 3am eating cosmic brownies, accidentally dropping a chunk into their guitar’s sound holes. And none of those journeys are invalid. Thanks.