Archive for June, 2014

So much to do, so much to see!

Monday, June 30th, 2014

I would like to publicly apologize for how long it has been since my last post… These past few weeks have been incredibly busy with schoolwork, travel, and sightseeing! I simply have not had enough time to sit down and write a post!

Anyway, where do I begin? How about where I left off…

The weekend of May 23 – 25, Anneka and I traveled to Innsbruck, Austria and Neuschwanstein! That’s right folks, we went to another country!! AUSTRIA! We left after our Friday class, around 13:30, and arrived in Innsbruck around 20:00. We had to change trains a few times, but we got there!

Off to Austria.. OOH!

Off to Austria.. OOH!

First impression of Innsbruck: smelly. Smell was not what I was expecting, arriving in a city that I had heard so many good things about! Anneka and I first had to find the hostel before we did anything else. After about a 45 minute walk and 2.3 miles, we finally found it. At this point, it’s almost 22:00, and we’re both starving. We found a cute little Italian restaurant and decided to eat there – a glass of wine and half of a pizza.. you can’t go wrong with that, can you?

Fancy dinner with Anneka

Fancy dinner with Anneka

We woke up early, so we would have all day to explore the city. The sight of the surrounding mountains was breathtaking!! I kept taking pictures of the same mountains because it was just so majestic! Once we left the hostel, we headed toward the city center, and we first encountered the Zeughaus museum, but we decided not to tour it, and we said we would rather spend our time seeing the sights of the city, than inside a museum. So we ventured onward. Next we had a look inside of the Jesuit church, and then out to look around town!


VonTrapp escape route.. (For you, Dad!!)

VonTrapp escape route.. (For you, Dad!!)







We wandered into the Bundesgarten/ Hofgarten behind the Landestheater, and discovered a knarly tree, great for pictures, and a jumbo chess set! The chess pieces were in a covered shelter-type area. Since the floor was wood, there were no markings for a board, so we set up the pieces and just imagined the squares. Although our board was a little larger than it should have been — our was 8×11, instead of 8×8, woops! We actually almost played a full game! I was about one move away from checkmate when two men asked if they could use the pieces to play a game. Since there were two sets of pieces, we said yes, but then they started taking the pieces we were playing with! It was only then that we realized that the boards were just outside of the shelter, around a group of benches… It was time to move on anyway, so we just called it a checkmate and went on our merry way.


Giant chess!

Giant chess!

It was a gorgeous day! The clouds just seemed to float through the sky and the light breeze was quite refreshing! We decided to take a break from exploring and sat down in a cafe and had a cappuccino and cake! I ordered an Apfelkuchen and Anneka got a Sachertorte. We split both of them, and the Sachertorte was delicious! It was my first time eating one, so I was surprised at how much I liked it. For those of you that know me, you know that I don’t really like chocolate cake, or chocolate flavored things. (I’d much rather just have a bar of chocolate than a chocolate cupcake or chocolate ice cream.)

Afternoon snack - Cappuccino mit Apfelkuchen und Sachertorte.. YUM!

Afternoon snack – Cappuccino mit Apfelkuchen und Sachertorte.. YUM!

After visiting the Grassmayr Bell Company, we wanted to visit the Ambras castle, but on our walk there, we realized that it was too far away and we were too ambitious to try to make it all that way and back to town before our train left. However, along the way we did run into the Olympic Ice Stadium and Tivoli Stadium! The Olympic Ice Stadium was home to the 1964 and ’76 Winter Olympics, and although we didn’t go inside, it was cool to snap a picture of the Olympic rings!


After a day of walking all over Innsbruck, it was time to head back to the train station to catch our train to our next destination: Füssen! Füssen is the village that is closest to Schloss Neuschwanstein. We arrived in the village around 23:30, so we didn’t really have any time to see the town before heading to the hostel. The next morning, we were up and out pretty early. Since it was a Sunday, not much was open. On top of that, it was about 07:30, so it was still too early for the places that would be open. Anneka and I eventually found a little cafe that was open, and grabbed a pastry and coffee for breakfast. After that, it was off the the castle! It was about 09:30 when we arrived, and we still had to buy tickets, then make the hike up the mountain to actually get to the castle.

Our tour was at 10:25, but only about 30 minutes long. Since King Ludwig II died before completion, construction ended abruptly, and the castle remains only 1/3 completed. I would’ve loved to have seen the unfinished parts of the castle and it also would have been interesting to see what the castle would have looked like if it was 100% completed. Neuschwanstein is already huge, but if it was three times that size, it would be gigantic! Sadly, you can’t take pictures inside the castle, but the view from up there was incredible! Although it was a little hazy, you could see for miles! (Or should I say kilometers?) After our tour, we made another hike, up even further, to the Marienbrücke, or Mary’s Bridge, which is from where most pictures of the castle are taken. Once we hiked back down to the bus pick-up point, we rode back to Füssen just in time to catch our train and start our long journey home. I would like to go back to Füssen and explore the village itself, because there is also a castle there (Hohes Schloss), along with a few other sites that I wish we had time to see. We also did not have enough time to visit Hohenschwangau, the home of King Ludwig I, A.K.A. the parent’s castle.


For more information on Innsbruck, click here.

For more information on Füssen, click here.

For more information on Neuschwanstein, click here.


The following Thursday, 29 May, was a holiday and we didn’t have classes, so Anneka and I spent the afternoon in Saalfeld, visiting Feengrotten, which literally translates to “Fairy Grottoes.” Feengrotten is a cave attraction in southeastern Thüringen, so we were able to get there for free with our student IDs. It was a dreary day and it had rained all morning and continued to rain the entire time we were there. Even though we were underground in the caves, it was still cold and damp, so it wasn’t the best experience that i could’ve had, but I’m still glad that I went! There were great photos though! However, I do have to say that it was not my favorite cave system.. That would still be Mammoth Cave in Kentucky!

29 May was a holiday in Germany, so it was like another Sunday – almost all stores were closed and the only places open were bars, pubs, and some cafes. What holiday could this possibly be, you ask?  It would be Männertag, or in English, Men’s Day. It’s the German version of Father’s Day, but it is celebrated VERY differently. Here, it’s a day where men venture out and the women and children tend to stay inside. The men enjoy a day full of drinking and bar hopping. Some even pull wagons full of beer with them! Originally, the men would actually go hiking and camping on Männertag, but I think nowadays, most men just go out drinking. On our way home, Anneka and I did see some men with camping gear on the train, and we applauded them for actually camping on such a cold and dreary Thursday!

For more information on Feengrotten, click here.

On 31 May, I decided to explore a part of Erfurt that I hadn’t seen yet. Jill and I rode the tram to the old town, got off, and got lost in the streets, findings new places and discovering new things. It was such a lovely afternoon and the weather was just perfect! After exploring a part of the city, Jill and I met a few other friends in Nordpark to grill and we had a picnic!

9 June was also a holiday, and since it was a long weekend, a group of exchange students decided to take a road trip to Croatia! I really wanted to go, but sadly, I had a 10 page take-home translation that was due in a few days, so I opted to stay behind. Another group of exchange students decided to dress up and go out to eat, and so we have dubbed this as “Fancy Friday.” On 6 June those of us that stayed in Erfurt dressed up in fancy clothes, took lots of nice pictures, and then went out for burgers. That was probably a sight to see: fancy people chowing down on a big ol’ burger… The next day, Anneka, Katie and I spent the afternoon at a spa. It was such a relaxing day! Sunday and Monday, however, I spent all day working on my translation. I had to translate into German, so it required a lot of effort and time. Sunday and Monday were incredibly hot! It was at least 32 degrees here! (That’s roughly 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and I have no AC… yuck!) When I went to class the following Tuesday, a handful of the class wanted to turn it in late, and the instructor was completely fine with that! If I had known this before the others left for Croatia, I definitely would have joined them. Not going to Croatia is the one thing that I regret thus far..

The weekend of 13 – 15 June was Krämerbrückenfest in Erfurt. The closest comparison that I could think of was a Medieval version of a Renaissance Fair. It was all there: the dress, the festival food, the vendors, the masses of people, everything! I have never seen that many people in Erfurt before. I actually did not enjoy the masses either. After Krämerbrückenfest, it just reinforced the idea that I made the right choice in choosing to study in Erfurt! :)

For more information on Krämerbrückenfest, click here.

Saturday, 14 June, I visited the Thüringer Zoopark right here in Erfurt! It was raining on and off throughout the day, but it was quite an experience for Erik, Anni, Alena, and me! Within the first five minutes of being inside the park, Erik was pooped on by a bird! Being from Finland, Anni had never seen a giraffe, elephant, or rhino before, so when we approached their exhibits, Anni became really excited and couldn’t hold back the smiles! There was also a nature trail in the park, and Ali and Erik ran ahead further down the trail, while Anni and I studied the map, since we didn’t have a lot of time until the park closed. When we started to catch up to them, Erik and Ali jumped out from behind a bush and scared Anni so much that she actually threw her phone a good 3 feet in front of her! (Or should I say 1 meter in front of her…) I was right behind Anni, opening a bottle of water, and if it had been a few seconds later, Anni would have had water all over the back of her hair… The major difference between zoos in the USA and Zoopark is that you could actually walk through some of the enclosures where the animals were! There was no glass or fence between you and the animals! We walked through the enclosures of White-tailed deer (in the North American section of the zoo…), Kangaroos, Monkeys, and Lemurs. There was also a ‘petting zoo’ section with Billy Goats, some of which were very photogenic. The elephants’ enclosure was very small for such large creatures, but the zoo is in the midst of building a new, much larger exhibit for them! We stayed at the zoo until it closed, but we did manage to see everything there! Later that night, we met a larger group of exchange students to watch the fireworks that were happening over St. Petersberg. What a display! Since July 4th is not celebrated in Europe, I’ve had my fill of fireworks to make up for the ones I will miss in the States. :)

Sunday, 15 June, David and I used our student IDs to travel to another Thüringen town: Gera. We only spent about 2-3 hours there. It was a very small town, and it definitely needs some TLC. The architecture around the city was quite interesting – one building would be renovated and taken care of, and the neighboring building would be falling apart, with paint peeling, fading colors, and other signs of decay. It is very apparent that the city has not fully recovered from WWII. Nevertheless, it was still a decent way to spend a Sunday, avoiding doing homework..

Following this post, there will be photos from all of these places posted! Go take a look!

Finally Forced to View Failure Differently: “Fail at a Higher Level”

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Last week was a defining moment for me in my Chinese learning…and in my mindset about what it means to fail.

I was just speaking to my resident director, 李老师,last week about continuing to find something that connects me to China. I’d bought Case Closed comic books, have clicked through Chinese television channels, would go out near my campus to interact with Chinese people…but everything felt really forced. I was feeling as though I were desperately grasping for something that would make me feel like China could one day be home, that I could adjust here, that I would make some progress in my abilities to speak and listen to Chinese.

…that I could finally finish more than just less than half of my homework after 10 hours of working on it per day and get some damn sleep. My mood was taking a hit. I’d fallen out of habits that I knew kept me focused. As I have been known to say, “I am too through with this nonsense!”


One of the constructive criticisms that 李老师was giving me consistently is that I was expecting perfection. I could definitely agree with him on that. I was thinking, “well…shouldn’t I be aiming to do well in my classes? I have not been able to finish more than half of my homework the whole first two weeks I’ve been here!”

Over time, my mindset had become, “Why shouldn’t I expect perfection. I should aim to perform perfectly…anything else is unacceptable.” My mom raised me to believe that there are people who do well and then there are people who do well. I still believe that…but the mindset that I was raised with in how to reach that latter level wasn’t going to help me in China.

The end and period.

He also asked me if I was one of the top students at my school. Yup. He asked me what did I like about Chinese culture. I joked that I would say something other than, “I really like the food.” Everyone and their mother says that when asked about a culture. I told him that when I was younger, my Father and I used to watch a lot of kung fu movies in black and white on VHS tapes. At the time, I was much too young to understand what I was looking at. It just looked cool – how else do interests start for children? Haha…

I told him that as I got older, I continued to watch these Chinese films…I began to venture into traditional themes and ones about gangs as I really admired the spirit and perseverance of the fighter. The themes of family, loyalty, and brotherhood were emphasized so heavily in those films. I thought the cultural aspect of how these themes were emphasized was very admirable. Of course, even at that time, I never thought I would want to actually LEARN Chinese language…I just never thought about it. I saw those squiggly lines and never even entertained the idea that I would be sitting abroad writing those squiggly lines out to form sentences. Haha!

I told him that I had first learned about China’s role in the world during my sophomore year of college in my East Asia in World Affairs class. I told him that I had learned about the China-Africa relationship and about my surprise that there was actually a power forcing us into a multipolar world (arguably bi-polar) and away from a unipolar one. I told him about the introduction to the movies A Better Tomorrow and The Killer in my Chinese History in Film class! Chow Yun-fat became my husband in my mind, at that point. I told him that I have always thought the characters, in particular, are beautiful and that reading and writing characters are my strong points because of my long background in art.

No. I certainly didn’t tell 李老师about Chow Yun-fat becoming my husband! Definitely left that part out! I couldn’t take the embarrassment if that slipped out… -_-

ALL that to feed to my main point… “Fail at a higher level.”

I was sitting at a café with my friend and 预拌, struggling once again through Chinese homework. Another day of starting the day out thinking, “I’m going to finish this homework today,” and of the inevitable sinking feeling that I probably wasn’t…but it would be a cold day in Hell before I wouldn’t keep trying to somehow get better in this language. Those were my thoughts every day and they were E.X.H.A.U.S.T.I.N.G.!!!

I had been waiting for something to click and it just wasn’t clicking – matter how mindful I thought I was being.

I expressed to my friend that I sometimes felt that I couldn’t do any of this but knew that I would keep trying…but felt that I was trying blindly. I was doing my job…asking for insight from my teachers and listening to advice from students who seemed to be managing the work better. Some of my classmates would tell me, “you’re not supposed to be able to finish the work.” Admittedly, my thought in response to that was, “What kind of nonsense is that…the classes are solely based on our preparation. I’ve been roasted enough times – in front of everyone - for not being prepared.”

I continued to be unsure why my mindset was not changing in my attempts to apply the tips that I felt, at the time, would be useful to me. I didn’t understand.

“Fail at a higher level.”

Then my friend said this to me…and explained the logic when my eyebrow began to rise. He said that I should be failing, but I have to be mindful of what I am failing at and work to know why I have failed at that thing once I’ve failed it.

I shouldn’t say that “everything” clicked, but something began to click. I started to become very thoughtful about what I was being told in that moment and what I had been told by everyone in the last two weeks…then things started to click and settle…especially by the next morning. The perspective about the stress, frustration, and sense of deflation that I had been feeling about this intensive program for the last two weeks began to change.

It is now the end of the week and a lot of my approach and performance in my classes show my choice to adjust my mindset. Heck, the changes started the very next day. I’ve been able to target the specific parts of my work that I need to focus on more than others… and learn to finish those areas, rather than think I have to emphasize a,b,c, d,e…z.

All of the advice that I had been receiving from my teachers and some students began to appropriately fall into place in my mind. I could sense that it was happening that way. Learning this language and succeeding at it will always be one of the GREATEST challenges that I will remember for the rest of my life. I am very sure of this. Of course… I said that about the Fulbright, Boren, and several other things…but the acute difference here is that I am being hit with a WHOLE lot of change all at once and I have long decided to swim, not sink, and now I have to be steadfast in learning how to navigate.

I think this is the first time that I am really accepting that the concept of “failure” is not entirely negative. That should not be confused with thinking that I never knew and understood that failure is a part of a process… I know this, but I am learning to understand this fact in a way that forces me to change an approach to success that I have only made minor adjustments to with each new challenge that I have faced up to this point.

I have had to go through some extreme struggles to become a solid student or to be good at something. Dealing with struggles are never easy. With that said, when you become good at something and conquer more and more challenges successfully…sometimes you have to remind yourself that you will always face some kind of struggle. You have to remind yourself that you might have to change your perspective to something completely different to even have a chance at overcoming the new obstacle that you now face.

Sometimes I apply my determination using the wrong technique and when I have to change tracks, it feels like I am dragging myself over scorching hot coals to make that transition. That’s exactly how it feels in that moment…

But…nothing will compare to THIS situation, I am sure of it. I was raised to believe that one should avoid failure at all cost. So, any time that I have failed, I have worked myself to the bone to turn that failure into a success. I never saw any reason to broadcast that I am failing at something until I have conquered that failure. Hell…even at that point, I called it ‘struggling’. Haha!

From failure, I have learned more than I would have if I hadn’t failed in the first place…. Sometimes I’ve had to work for weeks, months, years to see that success come to fruition. Didn’t always know how, didn’t always know when, but it was going to change and that is what I knew 100%.

…but…the only reason why anything changed was because I was mindful of the process. Failing without being conscious of moving towards improvement is not improvement but a continued inability to progress.

I think in this new context…this “failing at a higher level” thing…failure, as I’ve learned it in my upbringing, can only mean the conscious decision to give up on something that needs to be done – in your mind. For me, I need to learn Chinese…but I also need to apply the concept of failure in terms of learning…not to just an inability to learn…

It’s strange realizing that being fully prepared for my classes is not…possible…but you have to keep failing to actually come out of this program prepared for that future next level challenge in learning Chinese.

That’s definitely different to me. …or maybe not. Maybe I’ve applied this concept to a variety of struggles that I have faced but hadn’t ever consciously realized this?

This will not be my first time learning how to be exceptional at something, but I am learning what it means to be exceptional at something with the use of a very different kind of roadmap that pose both an extreme mental and emotional challenge to me.

I will say this…one of my classmates told me that my professor, 王老师, had told her that she has been very impressed with my work ethic. She said that I am not the best at listening and speaking but she has been extremely impressed by my “diligence and work ethic despite my hardships to learn” and that she is impressed with my abilities to read and write Chinese so well. I mean, YES, that flattered me…greatly and really put the biggest smile on my face.

This blog was particularly difficult to write for a lot of reasons. I am proud of myself for choosing to write it. Sometimes it is ok for people to know you’re struggling with something. Sometimes. Haha!  The stories of perseverance should not only be for  me to know. It is more important that I know that I am going to keep to my determination. I always keep to it…no matter how deflated I feel. This sort of challenge…learning Chinese…really reminds me of that fact.

In a lot of ways, some bits of familiarity have brought me a lot of balance this past week. :-)

Thank you for reading!


Nicknames & First Impressions

Friday, June 27th, 2014

When searching for inspiration on what to name my blog I came across a group of common nicknames for the state. People call Alasaka “The Last Frontier”, “North to the Future”, “The Great Land”, “Land of the Midnight Sun” and to my confusion “Seward’s Folly” [maybe I'll learn more about this one in July]. What struck me about each of these is the stark connotation of some beautiful, unexplored, mysterious land. Because in all honesty state nicknames are usually pretty boring – “Old Dominion” or “The Mother State” (VA) – and though “The Mother State” warrants some variation of awe it’s nothing like the feeling of awe I get from thinking about Alaska.  It’s huge, unknown, and a little terrifying but incredible in the way you feel you know someone without ever meeting them.

I might not be traveling the whole state or having some near-death deep back-woods experience, but I have no doubt that my time in Alaska will be life-changing.

I will be WWOOFing at a Wilderness Education Camp in Homer, Alaska – working in their onsite greenhouse and gardens while assisting with their camp for native Alaskan rising 9th graders and occasionally helping out nearby farms. Honestly, I’m going for the experience so whatever they ask me to do I’ll be up for.

When I first arrive, I’ll be staying in Anchorage for a few days before I can catch a ride with the camp bus as they drop off the campers from the first camp (in June) and pick up the new set for July. Time in Anchorage was not initially part of the plan but I’m really glad it worked out that way. From what I can tell through Google Earth searches there are about a million parks within a few miles of where I’m staying and I’m excited to explore as many as I can. One park in particular, called Earthquake Park, is the site of one of the largest earthquakes in North America in recent history. It occurred in the 1960s when very few people were living up in Alaska so there was very little life lost (thankfully) but the destruction – from what I’ve seen in pictures – was expansive. I remember learning about it in one of my classes this past year and thinking that the place in the pictures seemed so far away, but I’m about to be a few short miles from a park dedicated to preserving the event.

I think that is, at least so far, what this trip means to me. Right now, and for the next few days,  Alaska is just some far off place.

Off to London!

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Hey everyone!

I am not guaranteed to have internet in London, so I am quickly posting here. I was mistaken about Oxford- Oxford will be an entirely separate day-trip next Wednesday. Today and tomorrow are all about George Orwell, the British Film Institute, the Houses of Parliament and Les Miserable! I will be sure to update you when I return. Have a wonderful weekend!



Thursday, June 26th, 2014

The rain of Bath has finally arrived. So of course, I went on a walk.


Most importantly, I saw something beautiful, heart warming, one of those things you notice while walking and smile to yourself because you are so blessed to have seen it.

Picture: homeless man sitting in the rain against a rock wall, a small can is on his left, filled with God knows what (looked like paper, I have no idea of the significance). He was sitting on a broken down cardboard box  with a black jacket wrapped around his arms. An upper middle class lady, holding her umbrella between her, what I presume to be, husband and herself. She silently leans down, without confirming the move with her husband, and hands the homeless man her umbrella. Beautiful. One of those beautiful images that are incapable of being described through word. Not Even pictures. Only the mind can fully understand that kind of beauty.

So all in all, it was a healthy day, and week. I ate some good food, ran/walked, and had a couple beers.

Healthy living one great day at a time.

Until next time,


All Things Good

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Hi hi!

I just finished another week of classes. This one was very good. I got an A/A- on my Utopia paper! Whoohoo! (My teachers really like grades that are indecisive.) Oh well. Tomorrow, I go to London for the weekend with my class as a part of a course-trip. We will get to visit the British Film Institute, the Houses of Parliament and various other parts of London related to George Orwell, who’s 1984 we just finished reading. And then Madeline (a housemate) and I are making a separate trip to see Les Miserables at Queen’s Theatre! I’ve never seen this production before, so I am incredibly excited!

Tonight, my house is getting together to celebrate a mate’s birthday and watch the US/Germany game. To be honest, I am very sleepy. We leave bright and early (7:30AM) for London tomorrow, so thankfully the match starts at 5 instead of the usual 11PM.

I am sure my lunchtime pasty had to do with my sleepiness. Pasty’s are like pot-pies wrapped in breaded shells. And they are HEAVEN. My lunchtime pasty was filled with chicken, apples and cornish cider. SO. YUMMY. I love Bath so much.

A short update in lieu of a long weekend. Tata for now!

“Ignorance is Strength.”

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

What a load of bologna!

Hey readers. I am healing very nicely in the land of gorgeous scenery, although today I lack a voice, so I figured I can occupy my fingers with updates!

The title of this blog is a reference to the book 1984, which I finally got to read, and boy was it depressing! Brilliant, though, the methods of control Big Brother demonstrated against the public to keep them from defying the order. We spent a great deal of class time arguing why the book was dystopian versus anti-utopian. I believe that, as the land of Engsac was never intended to be utopian, it is a dystopia. I really liked the character of Winston and was sad to see him lose his mind.

We are now reading Brave New World, which is equally as riveting/depressing, if not moreso. I read this book in AP Literature class, but rereading it has reminded me of all the fascinating and disturbing elements that pulled me in four years ago. (What do you mean it’s been four years since high school?!)

In my Jane Austen class, we are reading Emma, and it is almost a unanimous consensus that the class dislikes the title character. I personally wouldn’t mind her if she had a plot in her novel. We are addressing some arguments that make me like it a little bit more- mostly stylistic- but I would say, Emma is my least favorite of the novels we read so far, behind Northanger Abbey, and Pride and Prejudice. We have one more left in this class- Persuasion- which I’ve been told is phenomenal, so I will wait to make my final verdict on the best book.

I got my first grade back on a Jane Austen paper, and it’s complicated. This is what was written on my paper: B++/A-

That second plus is intended. I had my teacher translate that this meant my paper was borderline A-, but my next paper’s improvement (or lack thereof) would determine whether this paper warranted a B++ or an A-. Fantastic. Going over her notes, I mostly concluded she wants me to focus more on why Jane Austen employs some literary devices. And to reference more quotes. Lots more quotes.

I get my first Utopia/Distopia paper back today, so I will let you know how that goes! Today is the last day of class for the week, and then we go to Oxford for the weekend! I am incredibly jazzed for that.

More to come, particularly in the way of photos. Bye bye!


For the Last Two Weeks, Everyone Thought I was Adopted by Canadians

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Ok, first…I need everyone to acknowledge just how similar Canada and Ghana sounds in Chinese…
Canada: ( 加拿大)GEE YAH NAH DAH
Ghana: ( 加纳) GEE YAH NAH

Remember how I said I was practicing how to explain myself as a Ghanaian American to the Chinese?

Well. It sounds like I just need help doing so with everyone, including the person who  I see in the mirror.

Today, I gave a presentation on my favorite Suzhou restaurant in Chinese. I was telling everyone how my friend had introduced me to 城东菜 and how I absolutely love the fried rice dishes there. Then, of course, I wanted to add more to my presentation so I went into an explanation about how Ghanaian people also consider rice a staple food. I explained how I felt that was a similarity between the two cultures.

The second I mentioned “Ghana,” I am assuming that is when I started to receive confused expressions from my classmates – including my professors. All of my classmates are American except for the Chinese professors there, including my own teacher, 粥老师。Of course…I didn’t notice the looks until halfway through my presentation but I assumed that was because my tones, as usual, were atrocious.

At the end of the presentation, there was a question and answer. Several students seemed more focused on what I said about Ghana than they were about the delicious beef fried rice that I was heavily advocating! They asked me in Chinese about Ghanaian (or so I thought) dishes and if I’d ever been to Ghana (or so I thought). When I was asked about the Canadian dish, I started to feel confused….the question was something about some kind of famous pudding specific to …Ghana?

I was standing up there in front of the class with my 什么? (What!?) face on asking…What pudding?” Thinking… “This guy doesn’t know Ghanaian food…why is he asking me about some kind of African pudding?” After several more questions, I received my applause and sat down…still feeling a bit confused…and in the back of my mind, wondering why 粥老师had started looking at me strangely halfway through my presentation.

粥老师takes her place in front of the class, pulls out the dry erase board and asks me in Chinese where Ghana (or so I thought) is located. I answer but everyone else is like “北边” (North). I am in my seat thinking, “Since when has the African continent been North of North America? What are they all even talking about?”

Then she says to me…加纳还是加拿大?“Ghana or Canada?” The whole class bursts out laughing when they watch the look of realization slowly setting on my face. Complete 真的吗!?”REALLY!?” look had to be on my face at that point.

I was mortified – and laughing, of course. I told my class…These last two weeks, I’ve been telling everyone 我妈妈爸爸都是加拿大人可是我弟弟,妹妹,和我都是美国人。“My parents are from Canada but my brother, sister, and myself are all American.” One student said that he thought I was telling everyone that I’d been adopted by Canadians. Goodness!! Another student asked me if I’d ever been to Canada…haha. Goodness Goodness…. And the golden comment was “Yeah…you were saying Canadian…how could you be in this program from the U.S. Department of State if you’re Canadian?”

This made me reflect on the many situations that people were shocked that I was 美国人(American) and I was standing there telling everyone that I was Canadian!? This entire time!? …That my PARENTS are Canadian!? …but goodness…the lady that I have become good friends with who owns one of the supermarkets thinks my background is CANADIAN!


When I taught English at the rural Chinese school, some asked me if I was African and I told them my parents were Canadian and that my brother, sister, and myself are all American. Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 3.29.54 PM

Somewhere down the line, I began to confuse 加拿大with 加纳。(“Canada” with “Ghana”). I am appalled that I left those school kids THAT confused about life!! Can you imagine… “妈妈爸爸!今天我有英文老师!她是黑人!我觉得她是非洲。。。可是她告诉我们她的妈妈爸爸都是加拿大人可是她的弟弟,妹妹,和她都是美国人!真的吗!?” “Mom, Dad! Today I had an English teacher! She is black! I thought she was African but she told us that both her parents are from Canada but her little sister, little brother, and she are all American! Really?!”

I’m just going to end this blog here. Too. Funny.

I mean, I was talking the World Cup with people…calling Ghana …CANADA…the entire time!

Yes, I can already hear the, “Really, Shirley…?” reactions from anyone reading this.


Rain in Spain

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Well, we were just a little tired today. We also dominated our breakfast (Uhhh yummy toast with Nutella anyone?!)

We took the metro over to Font Màgica de montjuïc (magic fountain) even though it wasn’t doing the show today. (We managed to miss all of the markets and the fountain because of Sunday/holidays)


It is a really cool area of Barcelona and is actually right by where dad and I stayed when we were here! (Miss you!)

our old hotel

our old hotel

We then attempted to travel over to Castell de montjuïc but got semi lost in a park where much to my excitement (and then dismay when it was closed) we stumbled upon another cat cafe. I just love me some cats. Don’t worry though… I saw a few roaming around. (Kate was happy it was closed… Weirdo)

font de gato

font de gato

Unfortunately it started to rain and we couldn’t quite find the castle (seems like it would be easy right?!) and instead we turned around and went to another cafe for tea and crepes.

We hung out with the people in out hostel for a bit before Kate, Collin and I went out for dinner and gelato. We let him know it was a big deal to be invited to food with us… We take eating very serious (trip = Kate and kaytlen eat Europe 2014?)

Warm showers, packing and a little minor surgery (I have a blister -_-) later we are off to bed for our last night in Europe :(. I’m sad to leave but happy to get home to my animals. (oh and my family too I guess ;) )

Dear mother, I really want BBQ chicken for dinner!! With an orange soda and a s’more. Little things I tell ya…

See you soon America.

St. Joan’s in Barcelona

Monday, June 23rd, 2014


So today we ventured over to the beaches and laid out for a while. It was great… so relaxing and just what we needed after all of the hectic travel days. No top? No problem. I may or may not have taken part of this motto that seems to be popular along the beaches here. (At least long enough to get that shot ;) )


A light snack and sangria hit the spot before heading back over to the hostel where we quickly prepared for the busy night a head of us. It was St. Joan’s Day here so tonight we went to the beaches to celebrate with our hostel and to watch the fireworks (more like watch out for fireworks… they are legal here and children were setting them off. It was a war zone.) We got home with the sunrise but that is the point of it. There were tons of DJs on the beach and crowds everywhere. Being natives like we are we avoided the tourist areas and hung out with all of the locals. Not a big deal but it kind of is.



Oh and before you ask.. I really don’t know what the holiday is for, so google it? So what did I learn on this evening you ask? Children are even scarier that you think and never trust the Canadians in regards to your drinks…. there may not be anything left when you get it back.

Good night! (Morning?)