Wait, WHAT!?: “White on the Outside…but in My Heart, I am Black”

Saturday, October 18, 2014 11: 50 PM

Tonight,  羽莎 [Yu(3) sha(1)] , my roommate, says to me, “I have another American friend! He always says “it’s all good in the hood, yo!” *she added hand movements, pointing in the air in a way that I’ve noticed common to Chinese people when they imitate rappers***

eGhzMGZ5MTI=_o_the-raised-eyebrow-look

The People’s Eyebrow had NOTHING on how high my eyebrow went up, I’m sure…

My eyebrow hit the skies in shock. She came out of nowhere with this!

Then…she symbolized someone giving someone else “dap” (a handshake). She said that when he would see her, he’d give her dap.

I just stared and nodded slowly. 我明白你。。。 [“I understand you…”]

Then….she threw up some gang signs.

My jaw dropped…and then I started laughing in disbelief!

I said, 真的吗!? [“Really?!”] to give my mind time to recover from the shock!
…and to figure out how I was going to respond to that.

She was grinning and laughing at my laughter and my repeated “真的吗?”s.

I finally recovered – a bit- and said, “你的朋友是美国人马?” [“Is your friend American?”] …even though…I really wanted to ask if this guy was black, but I was not about to confirm stereotypes by assuming he was black – at least NOT to her face. O_O I decided to just ask questions and wait for her to say it.

Nothing could prepare me for what came next.

他是美国人。他是白人 可是。。。”He is American. He is white, but…”

My eyebrows hit the skies again….and I bit back a 什么?!?[”WHAT!?”] response, thinking “he’s white?”

Then I heard the rest…

。。。可是他告诉我他的心是黑人“ [“…but he told me in his heart he is black.”] *she says with the BIGGEST grin on her face and laughing*

I stood there blinking stupidly…. And then I laughed! Unnaturally loud…partly because this was HILARIOUS, partly because I was in shock, partly because she was genuinely amused, partly because I couldn’t believe I never figured out how to say “What the hell!?” all this time I’ve been in and out of China.

…but the shock didn’t end there…I asked her…. 你说他是白人马? 。。。。为什么他告诉你他的心是黑人? [“You said he’s white?....why did he tell you that his heart is black?”]

我们一起看 The Wire. 我不知道 。。。* she threw up the gang signs and pointed around to symbolize rap music *** 可是我们一起 看 The Wire wire-poster然后我看 *pointing around and throwing up the gang signs* * 他告诉我那个意思”

(We watched The Wire. I didn’t know…. * she threw up the gang signs and pointed around to symbolized rap music* saying “It’s all good in the hood!” but we watched it together, then he told me the meaning of the show)

I blinked…Goodness! I wish someone had taken photos of my expressions.

I kept thinking “What the hell!?” in my mind but I felt like it was a GOOD thing that I didn’t know how to say that in Chinese.

I wasn’t angry though…I was just…shocked and amused ALL at the same time! Goodness!!! I could NOT stop laughing… haha. That maniacal laughter when you don’t know what else to do BUT laugh.

I explained to her that not all black people speak that way…and that I would love to meet her friend. In my head I was thinking… “Yes, I would sure love to meet this guy indeed…” Hahaha!!! I was AMUSED at the idea of an introduction…and I could tell him in Chinese that I’ve heard SO much about him…and if I could borrow his seasons of The Wire. HAH!!!!

She said he’s already gone back to the U.S.

“Of course he has….” To be honest, I felt a bit deflated at that news! I was ready to make fun of him a bit, hahaha!!!

BUT can we talk about the REAL issue here!?

Her introduction to black people was The Wire… no…not a good way to INTRODUCE. That show was AMAZING…but not sure if someone who thinks that he is black in his heart can explain to her….wisely…what she was looking at. Yes. That’s a nice way to articulate that bit… -_- O_O!!!

I met Yulia….just last Thursday… but I can tell that we are going to get along EXTREMELY well. …ESPECIALLY after she told me that Marvel and DC are extremely popular in China and that she loves Batman.

I was like “WHAT!?” We excitedly talked about our similar interests in DeathNote and some other Japanese shows and manga. We talked about Collagewhat was popular in the US and in China. We are going to see Guardians of the Galaxy in Chinese soon! We decided that we would go comic book shopping together.

Did I already say that I loved this girl?!

What I do know…is I am going to be sure she doesn’t have a certain view of black people.

I can’t stop laughing in disbelief…The WIRE!?!? He started her off with The Wire. …and the person starting her off is white, from OREGON, teaching her how to say “It’s all good in the hood, yo!”, how to throw up gang signs, and saying that he may be white on the outside but in his heart, he is black??!?

Stop the madness. Goodness!

Her curiosity is so intense though…I’m going to cleanse her of the nonsense.

*face in palm*

The Wire!? Really???

The Wire!? Really???


Posted in Black in China, CET Harbin, China, Chinese roommate, Cultural exchange, Dragonball Z, Japan!!!, Naruto | Leave a comment

Day 1 of Midterms Down!

Just gave a 7minute speech on China’s political structure in front of a panel of three Chinese teachers. After the speech, they each asked me questions.

It went well!

One of the questions: 你觉得美国能不能用中国政治的结构?”Do you think America would or would not be able to use China’s political structure?”

Had a good time answering that one…I gave a thorough answer about the differences between democracy and socialism and the nature of American people, how the State Council and the Congress differ. etc etc.

Day 1 down!


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UMW friends abroad!

Yesterday, I had a great surprise. Patrick messaged me to tell me he was in Paris! So this morning, we met up near Rue de Rivoli. We tried out Cafes Verlet, which is a gourmet shop that offers hundreds of varieties of coffee. We had a great time reminiscing about UMW days while wandering around the first and second arrondissments. We also made sure to enjoy a crêpe, some organic desserts, and the Jardin des Tuilieries. This morning made me realize that I love to travel with friends; it’s fun to share new adventures and new observations while comparing them with back home. For example, we laughed at how open Parisian society is to semi-nude photography (which appears in nearly every metro station) versus in America where violent imagery is more acceptable. In a few hours, I am headed off to Tuscany. I’ll be delighted to see Eynav, who is studying abroad there. I’m sure that with her as well, I’ll have a great time comparing European norms to norms back in the States.  She will show me the best of Florence, and we’ll have some great memories when we’re back at UMW next semester. Also, many people have given me enthusiastic reviews of Tuscan food. I’m looking forward to sampling gnocchi and much more.

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I’m going on an adventure! Pt.1

Kia Ora!

So it’s been a little while since my last post, but trying to find wifi while on a two week road trip is, as we learned, not quite easy. As I sit here in Mrs. O’s cafe thinking about the trip it becomes pretty clear that too much happened in these two weeks for only one post, so I’ve decided to break the trip down into two separate posts. That being said, ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, sit back, relax, and bear with me as I try and explain the best two weeks of my life with some of the best people I’ve meet.

For most of us doing the study abroad program at Lincoln the only real exploring we had done so far had been centered around the South Island, simply because of convenience. When the reality of having a two week break in the middle of the semester set in it became pretty clear to most of us that experiencing the North Island was the only way to go, and what better way to do so than with a few good mates and a Jucy campervan. When the day finally came to leave we were five people with a van, stack of maps, and rough outline of where we wanted to go.

Our game plan

Our game plan

 

I know for me personally the trip started off with a bit of a rough patch. About 5 minutes after landing in Auckland with Matt I got a call from home to tell me that my grandfather had just passed away. Before leaving for New Zealand back in July we all knew that there was a very good possibility of that being the last time I’d see him just because of how sick he had been in the months leading up to take off, but I still wasn’t prepared for the news. Part of me is glad that the trip was happening when it was because it would keep me busy over the next week, but at the same time it kind of sucked because the lack of wifi access made it really difficult to talk to any of my family. I think it’s safe to say that right then and there at the airport was the most homesick I’d felt the entire time that I’d been in New Zealand. I am really thankful though to have had Matt, Malia, Kelly, and Peter around all week because they did a really great job of keeping my mind off of everything, which I can’t thank them enough for and I’m not sure they have any idea how thankful for them being there I am. So with that kind of news to start off a trip Matt and I decided that rather than hanging around the airport for 3 hours or so waiting for the others we’d go pick up Patty, our camper van, and go find something fun to do. It wasn’t until the rental company handed us the keys and I was sitting in the drivers seat did it hit me that holy crap we were really about to start this adventure. I thought I was going to pee my pants.

Matt getting ready to roll

Matt getting ready to roll

And off we go!

And off we go!

A lovely picture of our lovely Patty <3

A lovely picture of our lovely Patty <3

Now by this point in the semester I had only driven 2 other times, and they were the day before. So, needless to say Matt and I were both a little freaked out when we put Patty in drive and pulled out of the parking lot and on to the left side of the road. We had no real clue where we wanted to go or what we wanted to do, so we just took some random turns and roads and ended up finding Ambry Regional Park. The great thing about New Zealand is that almost everywhere you look there is some really cool landform or stunning landscape to see. That’s pretty much Ambry Park in a nutshell. We spent the next two and a half hours walking around looking at lambs, climbing on rocks, finding “frothy lava”, and starting a trip tradition of sitting on well placed benches and admiring this amazing country that we get the chance to explore.

View walking around the park

View walking around the park

View from my favorite bench of the trip

View from my favorite bench of the trip

Some of the cool rocks around the lake

Some of the cool rocks around the lake

Matt sitting on the first well placed bench of the trip

Matt sitting on the first well placed bench of the trip

The field the park overlooks

The field the park overlooks

 

Once we had our fun at the park it was time to pick up the others from the airport and start on our way. The first place that our journey would take us was to Pam’s house. Pam is this wonderful old lady who went to high school with Malia’s grandfather. Small world huh? When she found out that Malia was going to be in Auckland she invited us all over for some tea and cake. We sat and chatted with her about the things we hoped to see and do on our trip and she told us about growing up with Malia’s grandfather in Hawaii. When it was finally time to leave she took us over to her daughter’s house where we were allowed to park Patty for the night, which seeing as it was dark and none of us really knew what we were doing yet was a life saver!  I think it was when Pam said bye and the 5 of us were left in a driveway with a camper that it really hit us that we were actually about to travel the entire North Island in a camper van for the next two weeks. We had a lot of fun that first night playing cards and talking about what we were most excited for in the upcoming weeks. Now we knew that it was going to be a bit cramped trying to sleep 5 people and all of our bags in a van meant for 4, but man was that first night rough! After talking to everyone the next morning I’m not sure any of us got much sleep at all. Thankfully though Pam’s daughter was super nice and let us use their shower, so that made the morning better. After we had the bags packed in and our morning coffee, which would turn out to be a necessity by the end of the trip, we were off to Waitomo to see the glowworm caves!

Night numero uno

Night numero uno

Our makeshift card table

Our makeshift card table

I’m pretty sure that the ride to the glowworm caves was one of my favorites of the trip. Matt was driving and Malia was his navigator, so that left Peter, Kelly, and me in the back for a good two hours. It was your typical road trip day filled with Egyptian Rat Race, Uno, Never have I ever, and oh yeah Peter trying to braid my hair. By the time we got to the caves we had an braid train going in the back and Malia and Matt cracking up in the front trying to get used to driving Patty.

Matt on a roll driving Patty

Matt on a roll driving Patty

And here we go!

And here we go!

So this happened...

So this happened…

And then this.

And then this.

Road tripping shenanigans

Road tripping shenanigans

Waitomo was a cute little town that consisted of a few neighborhoods, a rugby field, and the caves. We signed up to do our cave tours with the Starlight company and before long were climbing into a van with an Aussie family and Norm, our lovely tour guide. Norm had been living in the Waitomo area for years and spent many of them helping to build the infrastructure in the caves so that the tours could walk through and experience the views. Having spent so much time down in the caves Norm was really knowledgable about how the caves formed, events that happened in them, the different ways in and out, as well as the best places to see the glowworms. After walking through the first cave for about 15 minutes we reached a stream and a boat. We were told to get in the boat and turn off our headlamps. Before we knew it our eyes were adjusting and above us was a sight similar only to a clear night sky full of stars. It was simply amazing. We spent the next twenty or so minutes going up and down the stream mesmerized by the glowing worms above us. I have always had a weird obsession with the stars, and going through those caves was the closest to seeing the stars on a clear night that I’ve ever experienced, which I find kind of ironic seeing as we were underground.

Us before going into the first cave.

Us before going into the first cave.

When we finally reached the stream and the boat.

When we finally reached the stream and the boat.

The last picture before we had to turn off our head lamps.

The last picture before we had to turn off our head lamps.

Once we finished exploring the first cave we made our way to cave number two. Another fun tidbit about New Zealand’s North Island, it’s a pretty small island compared to home. So, that being said, it should have come to no surprise to any of us when we ran into the Brazilian study abroad students from Lincoln at the second cave. We all got a kick out of that and would later on laugh about it even more as we bumped into other Lincoln groups during these weeks. As cool as the first cave was, I personally liked the second cave the best (at least the structure of the cave and the rock formations. The glowworms in the first cave were the best of all).  As we were walking through this cave Norm once again turned out to be a really cool and knowledgeable tour guide. He told us about the different ways water formed the cave, a mud event that flooded the caves years ago, and showed us Moa bones that were discovered years before. All in all I think it’s safe to say that we had a pretty great cave experience thanks to Norm. When we made our way out of the second cave and back into town though it was time to move on South to Tongariro National Park which was a good two hours away from Waitomo.

IMG_3503 IMG_3486 IMG_3488

After spending the night at a campground in the park we woke up ready to hike! Two things we had all agreed on before leaving for the trip was that we wanted to see some of the film locations from the Lord of the Rings movies as well as do some hiking, so why not kill two birds with one stone? One of the best short walks in New Zealand is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing due to the beautiful landscape around the volcano an adventure associated with doing the hike. Oh yeah, and it’s also the location of Mt. Doom!!! This particular hike was probably my favorite part of our entire trip. We didn’t have the proper equipment to do the alpine part of the treck, but we did decide to do the Lower and Upper Tama Lakes. The first part of the treck is pretty easy. We were walking on relatively flat surfaces with Mt. Doom in front of us, beautiful snowcapped mountains to our right, and open plaines with a range in the background to our left.

The first view of Mt. Doom

The first view of Mt. Doom

Matt was ready to go!

Matt was ready to go!

Mt. Doom in the background

Mt. Doom in the background

Matt and me.

Matt and me.

It took a bit over an hour to get to the first Tama lake, but then again we did stop to take a bunch of pictures and throw some snowballs at each other. When we made it to the Lower Tama lake it was, as per usual, beautiful. We hung out there for a few minutes and then started to make our way to the Upper lake. That was the tricky part of the treck. Up until this point the trail had been mostly flat with a few inclines, but to get from the Lower to Upper lakes was straight up an incline made of loose little rocks and pebbles. That made it a bit more difficult because anytime you thought you were gaining ground you were really sliding down the hill a bit too. I also had a small issue with this part of the hike just because of my asthma. I really hate when it gives me problems during hikes and whatnot, so needless to say that about halfway up the hill I started to get a tad bit mad and agitated, but after awhile we finally made it to the top and man was it worth it! The views were incredible and so we decided it was the perfect spot to sit down and have some lunch with another really cool hiker that we ran into on our way. After lunch we spent some time climbing on rock and down some of the hillsides before making our way back down.

We made it to the Lower lake

We made it to the Lower lake

View from the Lower Tama Lake

View from the Lower Tama Lake

Hiking up to the Upper lake

The Lower lake while hiking up to the Upper lake

View from the walk up

View from the walk up

Upper Tama lake with Mt. Doom in the background

Upper Tama lake with Mt. Doom in the background

The view from the top!

The view from the top!

The way down, as expected, didn’t take us quite as long as the way up and before long we were back at the bottom of the mountain, but rather than going the same way back to Patty we decided to take a different path and go find a waterfall. Oh, and of course on the way down had to act out some scenes from the third Lord of the Rings movie.

"Come on, Mr. Frodo, I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you"

“Come on, Mr. Frodo, I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you”

When we made it to the waterfall we decided it was a good idea to climb around for half an hour or so and see how close we could get for some pictures. After leaving there though the rest of the walk about to Patty was simply that, a walk. As much fun as it is to climb up to high elevations and test your limits on hikes, it is still always a lot of fun to just stroll through some woods on a walk with some friends getting a chance to chat and just hang out. After finishing the hike and finally making our way back to the van we made ourselves some dinner and coffee and set out for Lake Taupo, 2 hours away.

Snack break

Snack break

So we found this waterfall

So we found this waterfall

Two of my Favorites <3

Two of my Favorites <3

Obligatory group picture

Obligatory group picture

We're basically best friends

We’re basically best friends

Let the drive to Taupo begin!

Let the drive to Taupo begin!

By the time we got the Taupo it had already gotten pretty dark and was starting to get late, so we though it best to find a campsite and just explore around more then next day. Before leaving Tongariro we called the information center and found a really great campsite called Reids Farm, and I sure am glad we did. We spent several nights over the course of our trip at our friends houses, outside of hostels, and in driveways, but it was Reids Farm that we all seemed to like the best. The campsite, while being free, was right next to the river, had a lot of really cool ducks (that apparently I shouldn’t have fed), and a really good climbing tree. It very quickly became our home base and felt like home by the time we left. That first night there though we were all really tired and decided that it was probably a good idea to just play some cards and hang out before catching some sleep. The next morning when we finally got a chance to look around the campsite we knew we had picked a good spot. Malia and I decided it would be a great idea to eat some breakfast and read in the nearby tree, Kelly was chasing ducks around taking pictures of them, Matt was taking it easy because he hadn’t been feeling well the night before, and good old Peter had a nice little fall into some mud trying to make his coffee! Overall a good morning.

Another night well spent hanging out with Patty

Another night well spent hanging out with Patty

Even if it is a little cramped

Even if it is a little cramped

Packing up for the day

Packing up for the day

Taupo was the point in our trip were we decided that taking it easy for a day or so wasn’t such a bad idea. We had only been on the move for 4 days or so by this point, but it felt like we had been going for a lot longer! I think it was the combination of always being on the move and having something to do as well as still not being used to sleeping in a van with 4 other people that drained us as much as it did. We started Taupo off add we did every morning, by finding a cafe for some much needed coffee. After finishing up there and looking at our maps trying to figure out what it was we wanted to do and see next we found the next best thing to a cafe, a library with free wifi! Needless to say the next hour or so of our time was spent letting our parents know we were alive and talking to friends from back home. Personally, I was really happy about finding wifi because with everything happening back home it was really difficult not having talked to my parents since Auckland. When I called my mom and dad were with my yaya at her house trying to get things packed away and ready for the funeral, so getting to talk to all three of them at once was really nice. Up until that point on the trip I had been doing pretty well keeping busy and trying not to think about it, but avoiding the situation didn’t make it just disappear. Talking to my mom and dad helped, but talking to my yaya was incredibly difficult. As much as everyone kept telling me not to feel bad about not being home for anything and as much as she tried to reassure me of that it’s impossible not to. At one point I started crying and I couldn’t tell if it was because I was upset with the situation or with myself for being half way around the world. As nice as it was to talk to them, the one person I still hadn’t gotten to talk to though was my brother Sal. He never does well with things like this, so he was the person that I wanted to talk to most to make sure he was alright, but he didn’t have his phone with him so that never happened. It was really difficult to leave that library because I wasn’t sure when we’d get wifi again and the thought of not knowing when I could check in with my mom or try and call Sal again really upset me. Thankfully, The Patty crew was great about the whole thing and before long we were on the move again. We spent most of that day walking around the town and checking out some of the shops along the main drag. Malia really wanted to going fishing while we were at the lake, so when she found out about a really great place to go from a local she was set on spending the rest of her day there. You know I don’t know what it is about Kiwi’s and not liking to make visible signs but I swear finding that fishing spot was one of the most difficult things we did on our entire trip! After dropping her off Matt, Peter, Kelly, and I decided to take a nice stroll around the lake and go out for dinner in town.

Walking around Lake Taupo

Walking around Lake Taupo

They found a cool bench

They found a cool bench

And I found a duck!

And I found a duck!

Matt and I keeping up with our well placed bench tradition

Matt and I keeping up with our well placed bench tradition

The city from along the lake

The city from along the lake

After dinner and picking Malia up again we decided to just stay at Reids Farm for another night rather than try and drive to Gisborne that night. That night we spent the same as every other, hanging out and talking in Patty and getting to know each other a bit better than before. Other than coffee and everything being 2 hours away we had another trend of the trip, not being able to get up and moving by the right time. Ever. When we finally decided it was time to get up we were behind schedule, so I ended up rolling straight out of bed and into the drivers seat to get us into town to shower (which we had been really lucky about the entire trip!). The only issue I found with being half asleep in the drivers seat is the fact that in New Zealand they drive on the left hand side of the road but sleepy Alex registers diving on the right. Thankfully Peter noticed almost immediately and called me out on it, and everyone else was still in bed so they had absolutely no idea. Well, that is until Peter decided that it would make for a funny story and told the others the next day. I still don’t hear the end of that one. After that little driving error though the rest of the day went pretty well. Remember how I mentioned earlier how the North Island is pretty small compared to the States? Well it is and I did, so surprise surprise when we run into Luke, another Lincoln study abroad student, on our way to get coffee. Matt, Kelly, Malia and Peter are all really awesome, but it was still nice to run into someone else we knew and catch up. He decided to drive his car up to the North Island and drive around by himself, stopping in any city that looked like it was worth stopping in. He was telling us about the wine tasting he had been doing the day before and some of the interesting things he’d passed on his travels so far. We all found that really helpful too because where he was coming from was where we were about to head off to. After chatting with him for a bit and drinking our coffee we were on the road headed for Gisborne. Along the way we needed to find a place to pull over and make lunch and, very much like what happened with Ambry Park, found one of the coolest little walks of the trip. What started off as a quick break turned into an hour or so hike through some woods to a waterfall. It’s the little things like this that exist just off the side of the road that make me love New Zealand so much. It’s as if everywhere you look there is something beautiful to see and fun to do.

The walk we found

The walk we found

I like taking pictures of flowers

I like taking pictures of flowers

Follow the stream

Follow the stream

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Another obligatory group picture

Another obligatory group picture

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And finally the falls

And finally the falls

One of my favorite things about living on Farm Road with everyone is how close you become with your flatmates and neighbors. It really is it’s own little community. So it was no surprise when my neighbor Sean offered to open his home to us while we were traveling around for a few nights. We got to Gisborne a little after dark and right around dinner time, so we decided to go grab some food in the main town area while we waited for Sean and his family to meet us after they were done with tea. We had some time to kill and decided to take a walk down to the beach and hang out around the water. Now when Sean said that we could come and stay with him we were expecting to pull Patty up in their driveway and sleep in there like with Pam’s daughter, so when his parents said that we were more than welcome to spend the night on the couches in the living room and spread out on the floor we were quite happy! We had spent every night so far of the trip cramped in the camper van  with no room to really move. It was the best feeling in the world to sprawl out on the floor! We were all out cold that night, especially Malia who had barely slept at all since leaving Lincoln. The only thing that made the already wonderful situation any better was Ruby, Sean’s amazing dog who became my best friend! Ruby was this little ball of energy who loved each and every one of us because we would pet and play with her. I could have easily spent all day playing with this little ball of sunshine! However, there were things to do and places to see. The weather in Gisborne while we were there wasn’t all that great, but we drove around and saw some stuff anyways. The first place tour guide Sean decided to take us was to a pretty cool pier about an hour or so away from his house. We really only spent a half an hour or so there though because the rain started a few minutes after we arrived. From there we went and got some ice cream and then went to our first wine tasting. The tasting was really interesting and a lot of fun. I think Kelly and Peter liked it the most though because of their wine appreciation paper they are taking this semester. It was pretty fun sitting next to them listening to the different things they had to say about the taste and colors of the wines though. Matt, Sean and I all got white wine while Kelly and Peter got reds. Going into the tasting I really thought I was more of a white wine fan, but by the end came to the conclusion that red was the only way to go. We went at a really great time too because an acoustic performer had just started playing and she was quite talented. We ended up spending a little over an hour there enjoying the wine, talking about all that we had done, and listening to the guitar. Overall it was a really great experience and I am really glad we had the chance to go. The man who worked there and was presenting the different wines to us was really cool as well. He knew a lot about what he was talking about and looked exactly like I’d imagine someone doing wine tastings would look like with the fancy mustache, hat, and all.

Ruby Doo!

Ruby Doo!IMG_3961IMG_3948

Hanging out on the pier.

Hanging out on the pier.

The view from the pier

The view from the pier

Our wine tasting

Our wine tasting

After we left there we made our way back to Sean’s house where his mom made all of us dinner. I’m not sure about the others because we never really talked about it, but that helped a bit with any homesickness I’d been feeling. I normally don’t get homesick and I think the only reason I had been was because of everything with my pap, but for whatever reason I had been and staying with Sean and his family helped. There’s nothing quite like going to someone’s home and having a home cooked meal with their family. It had been a while since any of us got to do that, and it was really nice. It was easy to sit around the table and talk about how the semester had been going, what all we still had ahead of us, and what it’s like for them to live in Gisborne. We ended up spending quite a bit of time just sitting around talking to him and his family about anything and everything honestly. We even ended up watching a movie with them after dinner. When it was finally time to head to bed we had all had a home cooked meal, showered, baked banana bread, and had a pretty great night just hanging out and laughing with each other. The next day it was time for us to move on again, but of course not before playing with Sean’s sheep and cows! You’d think by now we would all be used to seeing sheep and cows everywhere, but that is just one thing that never gets old! After cleaning up all of our stuff from their living rooms and packing Patty up for the second half of our trip we said Goodbye and thank you to Sean and his family and were off again.

Oh hello there

Oh hello there

Bahhhhtter blend in

Bahhhhtter blend in

Matt made a new friend

Matt made a new friend

hey mooooove over there

hey mooooove over there

The cow really likes Peter's boots

The cow really likes Peter’s boots

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Inventing All Sorts of Excuses: “Cultural Differences” and Letting the Lesson – Finally – Marinate

Sunday, September 28, 2014 8:11 P.M.

Cultural Differences.

…. must be one of the most overused phrases to excuse bad behavior.

All these random things about what is so different between this foreigner and this native person are used to try and smooth over what is clearly complete nonsense.

It is always important to be mindful of the cultural differences that may factor into the decisions that people make. Yet, those factors shouldn’t prevent you from standing up for yourself when you do not like what is taking place…particularly if it already has and can become even more of an inconvenience.

This is not my first rodeo facing this sort of thing abroad…but even so, there is definitely something I am learning about myself that hasn’t really marinated until that specific thing was called attention to earlier today – by someone who doesn’t even know me at all, at that.

I tend to explain my perspective over and over again.…as though the other person doesn’t understand. But they do. I allow myself to be distracted by the fifty reasons a person might be giving for why they did something and waste my time responding to each one. I recognize the excuses but I have a habit of automatically starting to explain my side with more detail…as if the detail even matters. It takes me a while, after I’ve wasted my breath, to finally reaffirm what I already knew to myself (likely because I don’t feel like talking to the person anymore): “This person knows that they did something wrong. This person is trying to get out of getting into trouble by changing your mind.”

I do know myself and I do know this is a problem that I need to change.

Now. Not later. Right now.

It’s a lesson that I keep noticing as a problem for me AFTER THE FACT…and it’s like, “No. Shirley. Just stop doing it because you already know you’re not supposed to be doing it. Just stop. That’s all. Save your damn breath!”

I know it won’t happen again… know why? Because my first round of making that mistake abroad…was way too much culture shock and so much at once. I remember what it did to me. I remember how I internalized it. While I eventually started making heads roll hard…took way too long, way too much pent up, “how dare …blah blah blah” before I started to handle my business.

This situation right now allows me to recognize what COULD have happened if someone else hadn’t said, “…uh why are you even doing that? Why are you even a, b, and c? Why? You had that conversation for an hour? Why.” This situation allows me to recognize the problem in the fact that I wasn’t able to call myself  out. On my own.

So. Ok.

That forces me to think about it all in a different way. Truly forces me…in a way that will ensure that this lesson MARINATES.

Time to handle my business and move on…so many other things to do than to put up with this nonsense for an extensive period of time.

I don’t have the time.

Going abroad, living in a different culture and wishing to respect it should never ever mean that you disrespect yourself in the process.

I bet it might have taken me a bit longer (another decade…let’s be real) to fully realize this bad habit if I hadn’t been faced with reasons to face it while in unfamiliar surroundings. Under these circumstances, I HAVE to think about what I do automatically that might be detrimental to me within unfamiliar confines. And I HAVE to think about the thoughts that I already have in terms of problem solving that will be extremely useful to me. What you learn while surrounded by the unfamiliar can definitely be a great help when things get really familiar again.

So… I suppose this is not only about other people making excuses to me. It is also about Shirley not making anymore excuses to herself.


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Malade

So there’s been a cold going around the group and I did so well avoiding it…until the day before yesterday. I’ve been busy for the past few days, so I got less sleep than I should have. On Tuesday, Rebecca and I went to a meeting at Sciences Po, and then to Tracy’s art exhibit. I had lots of fun with Rebecca; she’s a sweetheart. Unfortunately though, the exhibit was outside and it was a cold night. The following morning, I woke up feeling very worn out and congested. I know that the change in season explains a lot. I’m trying to preempt a downturn by drinking orange juice. I also swear by Emergen-C packets and lots of water. Yesterday, my big highlight was dinner with Kelsey and Alyssa. Alyssa came up and cooked up the steak, which we paired with salad and some peppers. The three of us swapped stories, and grins about how great meat was. Most of us have been eating relatively simply, and thus it’s a big treat to have a nice home-cooked meal. Today I woke up for French class, but immediately wanted to go back to bed. I made a brief appearance in class, and then I had to leave because I was so groggy and congested. The bus ride home is great, because I don’t have to walk through Montparnasse metro, and I get to see scenery. The best “sight” today goes to the gentleman with the stellar moustache! I wish I could have taken a picture. As for now, I am drinking tea and orange juice and reading in bed.

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A Breath of Home

A few days ago, I had the joy of seeing my parents. They arrived from the airport exhausted, but I got to spend a good amount of time catching up. I stayed with them in their budget hotel in Porte de Bagnolet, on the outskirts of the city. Then the following day, the three of us went around to see some of my favorite spots in Paris. I showed them the Centre Pompidou and the Marais. We had the typical Parisian café crème overlooking the square. Next, I took them to my apartment, which they were impressed with (it is big for Paris). Of course I brought them to see my school and the nearby Jardin du Luxembourg as well. That evening, my mom took us to see her friend Tracy from college days. That was great for me, because not only did I get in touch with Tracy, but I also made friends with the American graduate student who was renting out a room. The student, Rebecca, gave me her number and told me she’d introduce me to her classmates at Sciences Po. Before turning in that night, my parents and I enjoyed a waffle with hazelnut ice cream- what a treat! Then on their last morning in Paris, my parents took me grocery shopping. The hypermarche out by the hotel is astoundingly huge and cheap, so I plan to return there for next week’s provisions. Finally, Mom and Dad treated me to a good Parisian steak for lunch. Goodbyes were sad, but I feel that their visit renewed and excited me for the rest of my stay in Paris.

 

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Art and Lights

Bateaux Mouches   Living in Paris is a culturally-enriching experience. For example, it is an astoundingly diverse city with tourists and immigrants from every corner of the world. It is rich with history, from the Roman arena to World War II landmarks. Paris also has extraordinary museums and art exhibits on practically every street. And I’ve been to some of the greatest ones: Musee Rodin, Musee d’Orsay, Musee du Louvre, Centre Pompidou. It’s been said that Paris is the city of light. Here are some reasons why I agree with that expression. Every night after sundown, all the famous monuments and buildings are illuminated. My friends and I have often gone to the river, where the lights dance off the water. It’s very popular to pass time there with a bottle of wine or two and some good company. The Eiffel Tower is even more incredible at night. After sundown, it shimmers and flashes on the hour. Additionally, cinemas of all varieties abound; film is fondly called the “seventh art.” These movie houses add their bright neons to Parisian nights. Last  weekend, I went to a spectacle that gave much credence to the city of light nickname. At La Defense, half the city’s population gathered in a huge modern square to watch a fireworks and light-show called “Ici et Ailleurs,” which mimicked the rhythms and images of places far and wide. There were images projected on the huge square arch itself and strobe lights, search lights and more reflecting off the shiny skyscrapers.

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哈如宾式:Big Breasts and Pizza

Friday, September 19, 2014 10:30 AM

Yes, I know… Pizza in China? A first-generation American, Ghanaian woman…eating Italian food…in China. “What a small world, ” as a friend put it to me. haha! I must say…it is certainly worth discovering how Asian restaurants choose to flavor foods that are very popular at home…

What a small world, indeed! :-)

The family who runs this pizza place  (pic to the right) have been SO, SO warm to me the last two weeks. I love them! Their children are absolutely adorable too! The first time I talked to them, they family was excited to show me photos they’d taken of other foreigners who had come to their restaurant over the years. The husband joked with me that one of the German men really liked one of the Chinese female students and said she never knew though. “Poor guy,” is what he said. Haha! The first time that I went there, they were also so excited when they realized that I could speak Mandarin. Told me that most of the foreigners that come to their restaurant are unable to say much. (Small moments like these, you have to be proud of…it is the interactions with native Chinese that show you if your language is advancing or not. :-)!

The pizza restaurant!

The pizza restaurant!

SO…how do big breasts relate to pizza?

Well. They don’t, but they can. Haha!

I just got back from a pizza place… While I was waiting for my pizza, a Chinese woman walked by and just stared at me, observing me, while eating some sort of tofu soup thing. I glanced away but could still feel her eyes on me. She just stood there and continued to stare, so I glanced back and say “Hello!” in Chinese. Instantly,  the widest grin spread across her face. She scooped a big spoonful of this glob-like pudding stuff(She later told me it was some sort of Russian pudding) and offered it to me. I don’t share a spoon with anyone but my Mama so I politely but readily refused every single time she offered it. Haha!

My hello began a 30 minute conversation entirely in Chinese.  Throughout that 30 minute conversation, she kept giving …very extended ‘glances’ (aka blatant long stares)… at my chest. At first, I thought, “What is she looking at?” Several times, I gave quick glances at my sweater to see if I had a stain down the front of it or something….but there was nothing. As the conversation went on and she asked why I was in Harbin, why I felt Mandarin grammar was much harder than English grammar, she CONTINUED to just STARE at my chest. I began to feel a bit uncomfortable…got to a point where I was thinking, “What the hell does she keep looking at?” I always wanted to just ask her!

Then I began to just tune in to the uncomfortable feeling that I was feeling…she had been staring at my CHEST. O_O Once I accepted what she was staring at, I almost threw my arms opened wide and told her to just grab a handful and alleviate her curiosity. I remembered, in Taiwan, how women had been interested (and even asked) some of the students in my program about our chest sizes because they were not accustomed to see breasts that big… Haha!

At one point, I wondered if this woman was even going to blink. She KEPT staring at my chest for LONG periods of time. The periods of time got even longer.

Gotta love pizza in Asia... you get gloves! When this happened in Taiwan at a hamburger restaurant...I'd never been so amazed at something. Haha!

Gotta love pizza in Asia… you get gloves! When this happened in Taiwan at a hamburger restaurant…I’d never been so amazed at something. Haha!

She eventually asked me if I was female. Haha…this is not the first time I’ve been asked since I’ve been to China two months ago.  I am normally asked this when I wear jeans and a t-shirt. I told her that, “Yes, I am female.”  Haha! She asked about my hair and I told her that I cut my hair this way because I like it this way. I threw in a joke about how I can’t stand hot weather and this is the way for me to survive!

She then said my breasts were big. As my eyebrow began to rise…she signaled to my chest and made big round circle motions and told me they were very big, exaggerating her speech to indicate just how humongous she thought they were.

…and simply smiled in my face…while I stood there in silence, eyebrow all the way up my face, and STUNNED…not knowing what the hell to even say.

Well. How desperate was I to change the subject?
(…this is probably THE only time that I would call myself “黑人“ (black person) to anyone in China…because it doesn’t sit well with me when I am pointed at and called “黑人, 黑人”…BUT  I wanted to change that topic. Badly.)

So, I offered my hand to hers and started to compare skin tones. That was the only thing I could come up with. Nosey passerbys stared at us as I ended up having to convince her that I wasn’t black because I drank lots of coffee. Somewhere in there, I miscommunicated a message about the President and now she thinks I know him. More specifically…she thinks President Obama is my boyfriend.

#OliviaPope

#OliviaPope

Whatever. As long as the First Lady doesn’t hear about this. *cough*

I must admit… this exchange was entertaining. I an not going to forget this woman for a while. Before I left, I told her that I was excited to meet her. Haha! And I was! She helped me practice my speaking… If anything, she knows a lot about me. I know a lot about her too…though we spent most of the time discussing me. I promise we talked about other things aside fro my ….uh….apparently out of this world humongous set of breasts.

She was astoundingly curious about how I was American if my parents are from Ghana. I find that a lot of Chinese people believe that you are from where your parents are from so the concept of anything different is extremely strange to a good amount of them. It makes me want to talk to people about…what if  I was adopted…by a Canadian Father and a Puerto Rican Mother… how would that be thought of in people’s minds?

If anything, she learned a whole lot that night. I think I delivered a good experience to her. :-) She was especially impressed with my Chinese. Hell, I was too… I only used Pleco…3 times throughout our discussion. Otherwise, my ability to think fast enough to use words around a word that I may not understand in order to understand what is being said has significantly improved!

I have had many moments where I have interacted with curious Chinese people. In this case…a good amount of people in my location are used to foreigners…some are not. Haha!

As hilarious as this whole exchange is…I’m just proud of myself that I am getting out there and talking to people. Some may know that something like that is an incredibly big step for me.  It warmed my heart to have this family see me, a stranger, and after interacting with me for almost an hour tell me that I am family. It is the Chinese people that I need to be able to interact with, to understand, and to be understood by.  It is the Chinese that I need to be able to learn from in many ways that are not only essential to my career, but essential to my personal growth. :-)

Until next time!


Posted in Black in China, CET Harbin, China, Family, foreigner, Harbin, Humorous, Mandarin, Olivia Pope, Pizza, Scandal, Speaking Mandarin, The struggle continues | Leave a comment

Grateful.

It is truly a beautiful thing to be able to be in your twenties and to travel.

You’re only obligated to yourself, you’re living out your passions and creating new ones… the world is at your feet and you’re going to learn new things about yourself in the most unsuspecting ways.

It is absolutely beautiful what I am being exposed to here… so much culture, so many people from different walks of life and mindsets. So many endless possibilities if I open myself up to them!

I’m very grateful that I can live this out while being productive in terms of my future career goals at the same time.

Life is Good!

Life is Good!

 

 


Posted in Black in China, CET Harbin, Challenges, China, Grateful, Harbin, life lessons, Travel, Twenties and Traveling, Young | Leave a comment