Saturday, February 27, 2010

No Saying No

I was babysitting some of my friends children recently and was amazed at how well they listened. They understood that when I said no, I meant no. They willingly accepted my authority and listened so well.

I am not use to this attitude. Uyghur's believe that you should not discipline a child until they are thirteen and old enough to handle it. I have been over visiting some of my Uyghur grandmothers and while they were in the kitchen getting tea their grand kid has punched, bitten, and kicked me. When the lady came back and saw their precious child playing roughly with me, they didn't tell them "no" or get the child in trouble. Instead they just joked with him "you better stop this or big sister might not come back to visit you" "if you keep hurting your big sister her father might have to come and beat you up and he is a big, mean, strong man" (she issues the threat without knowing what a gentle and kind man my father really is). Disciple was issued only in terms of empty threats, it doesn't take a kid long to understand there is nothing behind them. It is just supposed out here that young children will be naughty and there is nothing to be done about it but wait.

Visiting some of these friends once landed me in bed for almost a week with a sore back. The kid had head rammed me in the stomach, driving me back into the wall. I was actually scared to go back to that ladies home and actually found out when her grandson was in preschool so that I could do my visiting when he was not around.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Worth it After All

So last week I was using the blog to bemoan my age and complain about a long night spent outside the airport. Our vacation is coming to a close and as I reflect on the relaxing week it has been I am forced to admit it was more than worth one uncomfortable night. I think the pictures can speak for themselves.

Great Views

Cable Car rides in the sky

Tall Waterfalls

Splashing in the waterfall's pool

And of course : The Beach

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fish Feasting on My Feet

Part of our annual holiday fun is to get a foot message or some sort of Asian spa treatment; it is cheap but relaxing and makes us feel fantastic. This year we saw an advertised fish message. Yes you read that right; it is a fish foot message. You stick your feet in a big over sized fish tank and let all the little guys swim around and in-between your toes eating the dead skin off your feet. Their mouths tickle against the bottom of your feet, but the result is pretty amazing. After 30 minutes of sitting there my feet were as soft as can be.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Too Old For This

To save on the cost of one night in a hotel, some friends and I decided to spend the night waiting around the airport. Our flight landed in at 12:30 a.m. and we had to be going again by 7 a.m. the next morning. While this is never the wisest idea, it is manageable if you can find a bench off in a back corner, then you and your friends can take turns dozing off or being the one to stay awake and watch the stuff. However, last week our brilliant $25 (spilt three ways) plan back fired on us. You see the airport was being fumigated, and even the 24 hour McDonalds was closed for 6 hours. We were all locked out of the airport and spent most of the night restlessly on the hard ground outside the airport. It was a miserably uncomfortable, muggy, long night, but it did teach me one very important lesson: "I am way too old for this".

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Visual Contradictions

My friends and I had a six hour layover in Macau last week and we decided to go out and explore the city. Talk about confusing your senses: The city was a balance of old ruins and brand new bright light casinos.
It was also a weird blend of Portuguese and Chinese. All the architecture looks like it was pulled straight out of Portugal but the music sounded like it came from Beijing opera, and all the decorations look just like what I imagine most of China looks like. It was a sea of contradictions that were hard to put in their place.

Macau, use to be part of Portugal, but in 1999 the city was given over to China with the promise that nothing would change for 50 years. That means that you don't need a Chinese Visa to visit Macau and it is a cheap fun place to have a layover when travelling. All of the signs around town are in three languages, Chinese, Portuguese, and English.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

No Two Snowflakes are Ever the Same

When we started to get into the Christmas mood out here my roommate and I decided to throw a party and invite some of our friends over to help us decorate. We got out the paper, markers, and scissors and decided we could have our friends help us make paper chains for the tree and cut out snowflakes for the window.
I had already make a few snowflakes before the guests arrived (ever since elementary school I have loved cutting out snowflakes and trying to make them as delicate as I can). Several of our friends saw the samples and decided they wanted to make them, but no one knew how. We had a group of over ten local college aged friends and none of them had ever cut out a snowflake before. I explained how to fold the paper, where to cut and where not to cut, I even made a new one as I explained. They all folded the paper, picked up one of my finished one and used it as a tracer. I tried to explain that no two snowflakes are the same and they they should use their own imagination to make their own. At that suggestion some of them gave up and went to make paper chains or to help hang the lights.

The whole situation made me think of what my American friends had commented about when they sent their kids to a local school. The education system here is based solely on rote memory and following examples to the letter. Creativity and imagination are not encouraged in school. They tell the story of when the teacher called them in because their son's picture of a cow was not the same. The teacher had been teaching an art lesson on how to draw a cow. Their son had changed his picture by making the cows head down and having him eat grass. The little boy had even added the grass to the picture. The teacher saw this as a child not able to follow directions and called his parents in for a meeting. The parents saw their son's picture as creative and fun, and praised him for thinking outside the imposed box.

Thinking back on this story reminded me why none of these young adults had never made a snowflake before. We cut them in school as an expression of our individuality, not a strict lesson in following rules. My friends still wanted a sample and so they cut out ones that were identical to mine. Now in our window there are more than 'two snowflakes that are the same'.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Coats Inside Out

Culture and customs can manifest themselves in the simplest every day actions. A westerner was visiting out here recently and I offered to take their coat. As they passed it to me they folded the coat by grabbing the shoulders and folding it. I took the coat and without even thinking about it refolded it the other way. My guest raised their eyebrow just slightly at my reflex action. Locals out here fold their coat so that the inside is facing out. They value keeping the outer part of the coat clean. I have had so many Uyghur guests through my home, and taken so many local peoples coats for them, that I now routinely fold them inside out. It is such a small thing, but it does reflect the little customs that are unique to different places and different peoples.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Using Internet

This post is once again coming to you live. I am out of the province, out of the country and on the internet. It's great! I am smiling from ear to ear right now. For the last few months we have been making a list of things to look up and do when we have internet again. Anyway over the next few days I will be adding pictures to past posts and such. Now is the time to leave comments, since I will actually get to read them myself. Thanks to those of you who have been leaving them, even though I wasn't able to check them personally until now, it is still fun to go back and read.

Since getting into town last night, I have already gone into the office to apply for a visa (I can pick up my first year long work visa on Thursday). I also got to sleep in and eat good food with friends.