European Churches = China?

In less than a week, I will be back in the United States and won't see my sister again until February. It's amazing how quickly the time has flown. And yet, time has also dragged on.

By the end of the first week I was not happy. I wanted to be back in the U.S. more than I wanted to spend time with my sister. Now, I take just about everything with a grain of salt (or spit in the Chinese custom).

I will start my teaching of American customs and my life in American hopefully tomorrow depending on what time we will get in on the train from Xi'an. I, personally, can't wait because it gives me something to do other than read massive amounts of fan fiction or read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand for a scholarship.

But right now, we're in Xi'an. It's a very walkable city - thankfully. I was happy to find it so much different than Beijing where I didn't have a great experience. Xi'an is quieter (if you can call it quiet), cleaner and much more people friendly - although the lack of non-expensive resturants can be slightly frustrating.

That being said, there isn't much to see in Xi'an. The Bell and Drum Towers are in the center of town (quite literally for the first one) and other than the Muslim quarter - there isn't much to see in town. The Terra Cotta Warriors are about an hour by bus and while I am happy to have seen them, you need an imagination to imagine people building them. Thankfully, I have one!

It's been a love/hate experience with China and now, instead of saying that it was good to see my sister, I can say that it was an experience. Because that's what is has been. It's been something I will remember forever, and also not want to experience again. It's weird but also so completely normal. In a way, it is like when we would visit millions of churches in Europe. I would say, "Oh, that's a cool church," but then I wouldn't want to return. China has been like that for me.

Later, I'll talk about hostel life - when I get the chance. For now, someone wants the computer.

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Trig and Chemistry

I taught for the first time the other day. A lesson that I thought would take at least twenty minutes took maybe five. And I was talking slow! There's some things I realized I need to add, revisit and think about some more before I decide to teach that lesson again. If I want to give Maggie's students a true vision of what life as an American high schooler is, then I need to be more detailed.

The other day, while in one of the Junior 3's classrooms I noticeed a board which I guessed to be a no-name board. Most of it was jibberish as all Chinese except the word for 'exit' is. And then I noticed something eerily familiar. AlSo3 I think was what it was. And then with an excited squeak, I looked to Maggie, "It's Chemistry!"

Naturally, Maggie's students found it amusing that I figured out it was Chemistry. What? I'm a senior in high school - I should be able to recognize a chemical reaction formula! That being said, I couldn't tell what type of reaction because above the arrows where it normally tells the energy or what have you, it was written in Chinese.

These Junior 3's are the equivalent of freshman - 14 years old - and they are all taking full-blown Chemistry! I took Chemistry as a freshman but I was by people who were juniors.

Then, walking past a classroom on the senior campus (where we live) I saw a very, very familiar math equation on the screen. They were simplifying trigometric functions. Again with the amazing-ness! I took Trigonometry as a junior and there are quite a few people in my high school that will never take it.

I find it amazing how when I came to China I felt like I was slightly better than my sister's Chinese students because I a) knew English and b) had more money. It was a subconscious thing. But every day these kids amaze me. They are so intelligent. I won't say they are more intelligent than Americans because they have trouble with creativity.

They don't have any "creative" classes - yearbook, newspaper, sculpture (art although generally the students, it seems, don't take it). My sister says that they are not allowed to major in fun things either. They are amazed when they found out that I am going to major in Creative Writing and History. That is just beyond them.

And yet, they are so smart. They have a passion and an eagerness for learning that surprises me constantly. It's a great feeling to know that you can still be taught something even when you aren't expecting to learn.

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Not So Much

I've been in China since Saturday afternoon and I have decided it's definitely no Europe. And maybe that's my fault because I was hoping it would be like Europe. And maybe it's that I'm not used to something so completely, utterly different than what I know. Whatever the case is, China has taken my expectations and blown them out the window.

Walking off the airplane I was happy to see a glass, stable, permanent jet way. Jet ways scare me to death so it was nice to know this one wasn't going to fall. Entering the actual airport it was gorgeous. If it wasn't against Chinese law I would have taken pictures of it. It opened just before the Olympics so it's new and very airy.

A health check (walking through temperature gauges) and customs proved to be scary. There are about twenty customs lines, each with a Chinese official in a surgical mask. Yes, a surgical mask. They don't want to get sick (who does?) and they check your passport and visa - making sure, I assume, you were on the plane manifesto.

Seeing my sister was absolutely amazing. It even made up for the fact that I had McDonalds two meals in a row (minus the meals on the plane). We got to our hostel and by 7 p.m (5 a.m in the U.S.) I was out.

Beijing turned out to be an experience and preferably one I won't have to repeat very often. (Or at all in the case of the metro experience.) The streets are dark, littered with garbage everywhere. And you have to make sure you are avoiding the spitting. Apparently the Chinese believe that is bad to keep phlegm in your body so they spit it out. And also, they wear knit surgical masks because they want to keep their mouth warm. Interesting huh?

We weren't rushing but somehow we got through the Forbidden City and Tian'amen Square in about three hours. The Forbidden City is cool for about the first five buildings. After that it's like, "Oh, more Ming architecture."

Lunch was at a Muslim restaurant where the beef wasn't of great quality - but we were hungry and wanted food.

The Chinese metros rarely have escalators and never elevators so we lugged my two suitcases all around the metro. We think about half of China's population was on those metro rides. There aren't weekends for the Chinese, as I've experienced.

We changed train tickets and had an absolutely horrible experience with the train. Now we know never to get standing room only tickets on a train again. Arriving in Handan around 8:30 we got to Maggie's apartment and then almost promptly went to sleep.

The next morning I went to class with her. And that was an experience of a lifetime. I walked in to a class of 65 students to find them cheering and clapping for me. It was definitely overwhelming. So far I've been to two classes - I'm going to more after lunch. And they were both Junior 1's - the first year of middle school for them. Both classes asked me my age (they thought I was old) and then later, in the second class, they brought Chinese dimes to me and asked if I would buy them an iPod. Sorry honeys, that won't buy an iPod.

I had something at lunch that really turned my stomach and so yesterday I skipped two classes so I could rest and be near a bathroom in case I needed to throw up. After eating some fried rice last night and again today for lunch, I am much better. So yay for so far avoiding the dreaded traveller's sickness.

Until later -

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Portfolio and China

In less than a week I will be in Beijing, China with my absolutely amazing sister. And I could probably go on and on and on (and on!) about how excited I am to see her, to see China and see some monks kick some kung fu butt. (Plus the Muslim bakeries) But I won't. Because there's plenty of time for that once I get to China (or at least, on the 14 hour plane ride.)

I've been retyping some school essays so I can get rid of them and have a digital copy instead. As a future English and History major I need to have samples of my writing for... something I think. If nothing more than to get inspired (yes, I'm weird). But as I'm retyping them I'm realizing I write much better history papers than I do English papers. Is that weird or what? My AP World History papers are much more fluid, more solid reasoned and except for I tend to like to use the word governments over and over, are pretty good. My Honors English II essays? Oh good Merlin they are terrible!

This year I'm taking Humanities which is basically a philosophy slash social science slash English class. And I'm starting to be able to write good English papers that are well thought out (in blue book style which is hard for me.) However, I haven't written a "what's the symbolism in this piece?" paper in about eight months, maybe more. I'm wondering how that's going to affect me when I'm forced to write papers like that for college.

Don't get me wrong, I still love English more than history but for some reason, I happen to be better at history writing. Weird.


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