Rules…What rules?

It never fails to surprise me how okay people here seem to be with anything and everything.  The most unusual and strange things can happen and people don’t give it a second thought.  While this isn’t that unusual or strange, it still surprises me….

At the bottom of my tiny street in the middle of no where is where we catch buses.  And I usually end up riding the bus at least 1 time per day.  What usually happens is I leisurely walk down the street peering through the 2 trees half-obscuring my vision of the approaching buses, keeping an eye out for my bus (702 if I am going to the gym/140 if I am going downtown…802 used to go to the gym but one day it just decided to change its course and no longer goes to the gym, making it useless to me).

This is the stree that I walk down to reach the bus stop

This is the direction that my bus goes

This is the direction that my buses come from

The 702 bus is the worst because it is always crowded to the point where you might as well be glued to the 40 people bumping up against you.  The 802, as I had mentioned above as being now useless, literally did just change its route one day.  Now, it turns about 3-4 bus stops before the one where I want to get off.  So, if I am feeling extremely antsy, I will still take it and then switch buses or walk the rest of the way.  But, most times, I idiotically wait for the 702.  I say idiotically because besides the fact that it is way too crowded, it sometimes only comes ever 20 or so minutes and then doesn’t even stop to pick up new riders.

When the bus doesn’t stop to pick up people, I sigh and shrivel up into a pile of despair while the people around me pretend we hadn’t just been punked.  The first time it happened I looked at everyone’s faces and realized that they could have cared less, despite the fact that I knew for a fact many of them were definitely waiting for that same bus as me.

So after many hours of waiting in the miserable cold, when I finally do catch my bus, it sometimes decides that it can do whatever it wants.  So if there is a lot of traffic on our road…it doesn’t matter.  Alternative routes…no problem.

“Today, this traffic is too much.  I will take the side street that skips about 8 or so bus stops.  No problem.”

Seriously, the bus sometimes tries to avoid traffic and takes a side street that goes through what I imagine to be a small, hidden village here on the outskirts of Changsha.  This doesnt really bother me because it doesn’t skip my stop, but I just don’t quite understand how this is, well, okay.  It’s a world with no rules I guess.  Like when there is a red light and the bus driver decides, “Whatever dude, red lights don’t apply to pedestrians so why don’t I just pretend to be a pedestrian.”  What?  Well, what they do is drive a little to the right, a fake right if you will, and drive in the white lines designated as the area where pedestrians should cross the street.  A bus is a little bit bigger than your average human being, but it doesn’t matter.  This is apparently the best technique to stick it to the man….aka skip those completely unnecessary red lights.

That’s it for now.  It’s almost time to get my students final exams.  Woot woot!  Time to grade..all day.


No More Class – in the sense of teaching that is – I’ll always remain classy

Not sure how many Vlogs I’ll keep up with…but here’s another one.  I guess it takes less time than writing.  And I do like talking.  But talking to a computer displaying my face is strange and kind of sad.

This one may be the most awkward of them all.  I think so anyway.  In writing, I can kind of hide behind my words.  But…in a vlog, you can see me!  I’m naked.

Hey, Mom.  My mom is my number 1 reader.  I think…since she comments on practically anything.  Although, Mom, I still am a bit offended that you only said to send your love to Will when I wrote about him being kicked by some crazy man.  I was slapped (the hardest slap ever witnessed in person – said Will) in the same post.  Perhaps you were just sure that my brute strength and beer muscles protected me.

K.  Well, here’s my Vlog.  I should get back to recording grades for the 10o Sky’s, Becky’s, Lucky’s, and
Daisy’s that are my students.  P.S. Favorite name of a student this year:  Neck.  –Why is your name “Neck?”  She thought it was funny.  Oh, and I strangely enough have some girls with blatant boy names. “My name is Robert.  Yes, I know its a boy name.  But that’s what makes it special.  Because I’m a girl.”

K.  Picture.  Then Vlog.

Yes. This is in my classroom.

Now Vlog:

My Father Loves Me

Here is an excerpt from a conversation with my dad.   Keep in mind that its written verbatim…I record all conversations just in case I need to blackmail people.  Here:

“I didn’t actually see your virtual tour thing, but I heard it cuz your mother was watching, HAHA.  Why did you do that?”

“What do you mean, dear father?”

“Why would anyone want to see your apartment?”

“I don’t know, father.  Perhaps people are a interested in seeing what it looks like where I live…”


“Well, I am sorry to have ruined your day.  But that’s what blogs are for, to inform people about what you are doing/how you feel…”

“I don’t understand blogs and I don’t understand why you would have a blog.”

“Oh father, how you have hurt my feelings.  You do know how sensitive I am.”

“Whatever.  Talk to your mom.”

Anyway.  My father never reads my blog so he won’t see…But my next VLOG post is dedicated to him.  It’s about farting bugs…definitely a suitable topic to be dedicated to my father (if you know what I mean..)  Oh, and I realize this is super awkward.




“Hi” I respond.  Usually.  People are always yelling “Hello” and contrary to the Asian stereotype of pronouncing L’s like R’s (Herro), they seem to over-pronounce the L.  HELLLLLO!  Like that.  Some people get annoyed.  But, I don’t really. If I don’t respond then I’m clearly in a bad mood.  But the other day, some guy yelled HELLO in my face, and when I said, “Hello” back to him, he yelled, “HELLO!!!!” again.  Baffled at how to respond I kept walking.  He was definitely a crazy, but he looked at me with such great expectations of a response that I felt at a complete loss.

“This weather is absolutely abominable, wouldn’t you agree there fine homeless man?”  I could have said that, I guess.


Singing in the Streets

So I realized today that although I am/have always been a person that likes talking to people, that there is a certain peacefulness in not being able to interact with everyone around you.

For 1 – I actually feel as if I’m not a real person  (in a good way).  I feel as if I am just floating on by.  It is true that people often stare at me…because hey, I look different.  But other than the occasional “hello!” yelled at me after I’ve already walked by, most people don’t take too much interest in me.  What do I mean?  Well…an example:  I am usually listening to music when I walk around.  And nowadays, I often sing along with the music.  Would I do this in America?  No.

1 – people would recognize the song and realize that I don’t actually know all the words that I am blurting out and 2 – well, in America, I would think this is weird.  American people are much more judgmental than Chinese people (and yes, you can say I am basing this generalization off of myself…and my friends).

Oh and No. 3 – I have this theory that anything sang in a foreign language sounds better than if it were sang in your language.  If you don’t believe me, then go to KTV and listen to a Chinese person sing a Chinese song.  Then ask that person to sing an English song immediately after.  That person who once sounded fantastic….well, you will realize that they aren’t.  I do realize that this may be because Chinese people practice singing specific songs so that they can sound like a pro when they are in front of others.

Anyway, I like being able to sing in public and have people stare at me not because I am singing…but because I am a foreigner.  It’s like…since I am already a foreigner, I would have to do something more outrageous than singing to shock them any further.  FOREIGNER?  Where?!?!  He’s singing?…who cares.

So another plus to the language barrier.  Today, I was walking across a bridge and accidentally kicked someone’s mini-basket cage things they were selling.  I don’t know what they were.  And before I had a chance to assist a hand, the man scurried after the little ball basket cage thing and picked it up.  Being a foreigner, we both realized any type of conversation would have been more of a struggle than it was worth.  He didn’t yell at me, and he didn’t try to make me buy it for my reckless walking…which was a good thing because a conversation about the idiocy of propping your cage ball baskets at the top of steps on a bridge is not my forte.

I guess the main idea is: I feel less judged about what I do in public here than in any other place I have ever been, even despite the fact that I get more attention than in any other place I have ever traveled too (or lived in).  Strange.  Thanks, China.

Virtual Tour of My Apartment

It is uploaded in three separate segments. First, the walk up to the door. Then the kitchen and bathroom. Then the rest. Forgive me for talking like a robot at the beginning.  Being in China has made me do that.  I guess I forgot that the people who would be watching this would be mostly Americans and not my students.

Leather Boots and Booty Shorts – all the rave

Yesterday at the gym, I was sitting at a machine when someone walked by me.  It was a girl wearing high-heeled leather boots and some little booty shorts.  Where was she coming from?  I thought that maybe she was a dance instructor for the “pole aerobics” or whatever they call it.  Anyway, I went back to my lifting.  But then, someone else walked by.  At first, I only noticed the leather boots as they whooshed across the floor.  These boots didn’t have heels (I didn’t think), but then went even higher than the other ones.  These ones went higher than the knees.  I started to look up to see who was wearing these boots.  As my eyes moved upward, I realized this person was wearing skin-tight, leather booty shorts.  And the shirt?  Well, I don’t quite remember.  I just remember thinking, “Oh my god, that’s a man.”  Was he wearing a little policeman cap, also?  I want to say yes, but I was a bit overwhelmed, and I may be mistaking him for the skinny club-dancer who cross-dresses.

So the guy rushed across the floor and disappeared.  Everyone remained unfazed.  When I walk by, all heads turn.  But pole dancing male strippers…perfectly normal.

I was almost finished with my routine at this point, and so it was inevitable that I would see boots boy in the locker room.  When I did walk in, there were double the amount of people in there than outside in the gym (people actually go to the gym just to shower sometimes…especially students who don’t have running hot water in their dormitories..).  So it wasn’t until I was about to leave that I saw him again.

I went to wash my hands, but the sink was preoccupied.  Boots boy was basically showering in it.  Why not go to the actual shower room to wash your hair?  Well, easy: because that would require taking off your boots.  Yes, he stood at the sink, washing his hair (shampoo, conditioner, and all) as I stood there and waited.  Normally, I would squeeze through and wash my hands, but his head was basically under the faucet.

This wasn’t even the most bizarre thing about the experience.  Standing next to him were two other dudes blowdrying their hair.  Ever wonder how Chinese men get that perfect (or imperfect…) fluff in their hair?  Blowdrying.  At this point, I am used to it.  Blowdrying your own hair is fine.  Keyword being own.  But, that’s not what was happening here.  The one guy was blowdrying the other guys hair for him.  And blowdrying is not just a process of “drying.”  It’s a process of poofing out the hair.  So when I say, he was blowdrying his friends hair, I mean, he was combing his fingers through his friends hair as he blew warm air over his head.  All of this going on next to a shirtless dude wearing leather boots and (leather) booty shorts.

Oh, ziyang fitness.

Gym Times

Someone applauded me at the gym the other day.  She took her two hands, and enthusiastically clapped them together as I finished my final rep on the bench press.  I guess it wasn’t enough for her to  stand at my feet staring at me in anxious anticipation, biting her lip, silently rooting me on.  She had to voice her excitement.

I now go to the gym about 3-5 days per week.  And being a regular, most people have finally understood that by wearing headphones and avoiding eye-contact, I am not there to socialize.  I am making myself sound like some sort of anti-social jerk, but that’s not how it is at all…. let me give a run down of my daily gym trip:

– I leave my apartment at about 6 PM.  If I’m lucky, I won’t have to wait for a bus.  The bus ride is usually around 20-25 minutes.  Therefore, I usually am in the gym ready to work out by 6:45 PM.

– The two strongest guys in the gym are ALWAYS on the same lifting schedule as me.  Besides making me look puny, I have to wander around aimlessly trying to find a machine (they only have one flat bench press…along with 1 of every machine).

– People notice when I wander.  “Why do you keep walking back and forth?”  If you know me, you know I don’t mind attention (even enjoy it..), but when people notice me being awkward…well, that’s a different story.

– When I finally do start lifting, someone walks over and stands inches away, facing me.  He then crosses his arms and observes.  Once the first person is in place, one by one, people join, until a crowd of shirtless, jean-wearing gym-goers are breathing over me.  Naturally, I pretend I don’t notice them.  I do.  Not only do I notice them, I can feel their judging stares as they rotate around me, meticulously analyzing every rep, every move of my body…are my arms bent too much?  how about my posture?  why did I only do 12 reps and not 20?  3 sets and not 18…absurd.

– On some of these occasions, people will even strike up a conversation while I’m in the middle of a dangerous metal pole above my head.  “Can you correct my essay?” he/she will ask as they shove it in my face.  …….sure.

– I finally told my personal trainer that I wanted to do my own thing.  He took it pretty hard and vowed to get stronger than me.  I’m sorry but doing three different exercises 418 times was not what I had signed up for.

– The headphones are what turned around my gym-life.  I can take them off and say high to people, but when I have them in…people know I am there to do my thing and not chat.

– Gross things:  There is no sanitation.  No paper towels.  No cleansing spray.  Nothing.  And these big dudes go shirtless, sweating all over the machines.  My mom would have a heart-attack.  Not to mention the fact that they all seem to wear the same clothes everyday….(my students now go to the gym, and I often see them wearing the same clothes to class that they wore at the gym the night before…)

Alright.  I actually have to go to the gym.  it’s my birthday tomorrow and that means I won’t be making it there for a few days..


Beggars on Buses – The Mystery of the Filthy Poke

– Beggars are people (I think) that I fear more than the plague.  And beggars on buses just got brought to my mind by a text that I received from my friend Will.

I think beggars are bad enough when I have to look at them for a mere fifteen seconds as I approach them on a crowded street, but when they jump on your bus, come up to you, and start poking you with their grungy fingers…fingernails 27.4 inches long with dirt cemented underneath….  Yeah.  How do they not break from all the poking they do?  I don’t know.  But seriously…poking?  I only find that enjoyable on facebook.  And even then its often creepy..  Why is my dad’s friend poking me?  Does he know what that is?

A toned down version of Will’s text message:  “This beggar just got on the bus.  Singing Traditional Chinese music.  And, of course, she picked the stop right before crossing the bridge.  If she touches me…”  Let me explain a few things here:  If you have never heard traditional Chinese music then your ears are probably 2-3x better than those who have stumbled upon this cruel and unusual punishment that China clearly developed as some sort of torture mechanism that was leaked to the public and through brainwashing became thought of as “beautiful.”  Old breaks on your fathers 1975 Chevy Caprice Classic.  Nails on the chalkboard.  Cats dying in the night.  All are more enjoyable to listen to…if only for the fact that they can’t possibly last as long as any traditional Chinese song seems to last.

And going back to beggars on buses…people give them money.  Dear Lord.  I would continue getting on buses and busting people’s eardrums if I knew I could make a living out of it.  Actually, come to think of it..maybe I can.  Sorry, mom and dad, I won’t be coming home anytime within the near future..I just found my calling.

Anyway, I love riding on buses, despite the bad smells, crowded spaces, and occasional beggars.  I don’t really know why.  Well, I enjoy buses when I can sit.  I have even developed the skill (yes, its a skill) of sleeping on buses and waking up moments before my stop.  This is something I thought that only Chinese people were capable of doing.  Perhaps, I have just been lucky.  But, bus rides are something I have become accustomed to, and its somehow even relaxing…until I am poked, that is.

Plus, buses are a good place to people watch.  I do love people watching.  And baby watching…  Yes, baby watching is possible in China because they are everywhere.  And way cuter than any other babies you have ever seen.  Maybe that’s not true, but a pack of baby tigers is cuter than one cute panda.  Based on quality and quantity…Chinese babies win.  The other day, I saw twins.  I gave up my seat to the mother, and then I secretly watched the two babies poke each other (only about half as adorable as being poked by a beggar) from the other end of the bus.

Okay, that’s enough bus rant.  I’m about to go get on one.  Time for the gym.  Aka, time to be the main spectacle in a complex filled with 100 Chinese people who all want to practice their English with the lone foreigner.

Much Love.


The finals….

I didn’t know much about what was going to happen in the finals.  I figured it would be the same thing as before…as in it would change, again.

So, anyway, I was called the day before the filming of the finals and told that I should bring a few friends.  I told my friends, and most of them didn’t want to wake up at 8AMish on a Sunday, even if it was to be on TV.  Zak, however, who had a lot invested in my endeavor (claiming that his unbuckling of my seatbelt was at least worth a thousand dollars or so when I sold the car for cash) returned from Xiangtan to give support.  Michaela and Diane backed out (as expected), but Will (much more reliable than those other two…) still showed up.

Upon our arrival, we were informed of another rule.  A rule most likely placed there to destroy my chances at winning…A rule that ensured that I had to follow the rules and not cheat.  New Rule:  If the driver does not try to avoid obstacles, an additional 40 seconds will be added on, in addition to the actual 10 second penalties acquired from each obstacle hit.

They had always been worried about my reckless driving, and now that I was already in the finals, there was no reason for them to help me cheat.  Now, there was a real prize on the line.  And, for me to win, having no clue how to really drive stick, would be absolutely ridiculous.  The poor Chinese fools had been playing the show by the rules, to their huge disadvantage.  Why try to avoid obstacles, take way more time, and end up still failing.  Driving fast was the way to go.  But now, I would be forced to play by the rules.  How unfair….

Plus, I had gone into the finals thinking that I was one of 6 people vying for the 3 cars only to have my hopes shattered with the realization that there had been two additional semi-finals the day after my semi-finals.  Therefore, there would be 12 of us.  LUCKILY, I pulled card number 11.  I would be the 11th person to go…a huge advantage over the others.

Since I was actually, really nervous, this show was not nearly as enjoyable as the others.  I kept trying to figure out how I was going to tackle the first zone (there were 4 driving zones and then the water pit with tires over it that we had to run across while chicks threw medicine balls at us…).  Zones 2-4 were fine.  I had never gotten a penalty in zone 2.  I knew how to take on zone 3.  And zone four was penalty-less.  It was zone 1 though, that I really had to worry about.  4 obstacles.  I had usually just driven straight through and taken 2 penalties.  But that would put me at 60 seconds to start…completely out of the running.

Of the first 4 people, three fell in.  I started to think that maybe I had a real chance.

I don’t remember much about them interviewing me.  It was my least amount of actual camera time of all the episodes, which I was thankful for.  As if the pressure from the show wasn’t enough, I couldn’t drive stick, and I couldn’t speak the language.  Way more things to worry about than I was comfortable with.

So, this time, instead of interpretively dancing to Sinad O’Connor, Zak and Will did a cheer for me.  The one host came up with it.

“Frank Ho Ho Hoban.  Frank Go Go Go Win!”

They failed miserably in their first attempt.  But the second try wasn’t a complete failure.  Then I was told to leave the stage as Zak and Will did some modeling.

By the time I went, I knew I had to get somewhere under 1 minute and 10 seconds.  Difficult.  Real difficult.  So… it was time to go.

I started driving, and the guy started waving his flag and screaming at me.  I had jumped the gun.  Intentionally.  Had I not, then I would have had to wait an additional 8 seconds for the barrier to go back up.  But, the guy screaming at me threw me off…completely rattled me.  Then I stalled out.  The obstacle came down and hit my car.  I tried to drive through.  Another hit me.  I stalled out again.  Panic.  4 penalties and 38 seconds later, I had finished the first zone.  I was already out of the running.

So unfortunate too.  The next 3 zones and the water pit took me a total of 19 seconds with zero penalties.  Even if I had gotten 2 or so penalties on the first section, and finished in 20 seconds, I would have won.  Or gotten second.

For the first time ever (out of 4 times), I took the water pit successfully.  I just charged at it, thinking, hey, I’ve already lost, I might as well try to finish strong.

I made it about 3 quarters of the way across (I don’t think any balls hit me, as I had bribed one of the show girls to tell everyone else to purposely miss me…) before I stumbled.  But, I just used my momentum and took a huge dive.  I hit the other side, slid across, got up, pressed the button, and realized I had still lost horribly.  I had one of the fastest finishing times, but 4 penalties from the first zone had eliminated me.

I just stood there depressed as they tried to interview me.  I told them I felt very unhappy and walked away knowing I had blown a great opportunity.

Over the next 24 hours, I kept thinking of all the things that I could have…should have done differently.  But bottom line is, I was on a TV show four times (although I have still only seen the episode that I fell in the water during), won 150 USD, won a remote control audi, and my personal favorite, 2 containers of motor oil (clearly for the car that I did not win).  Oh, and I got a certificate that didn’t even have my name written on.

The three winners looked happy though.  And their families came to join them.  Yeah, that’s right.  I had two friends (most of my friends wouldn’t even get up to come out for it…), and everyone else had their wives, children, cousins, etc.

But it was a little depressing when the three winners couldn’t even pop open their bottles of champagne.  I stood there and watched thinking:  if only….