Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

哈如宾式:Big Breasts and Pizza

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

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.



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!

Diferente dos

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

I’ve been in Spain for two weeks now.  It definitely does not feel that way.  I haven’t been home sick, so that’s a plus! But here are more differences that I have noticed over the weeks.  I wanted to post these before I post the next blog!

1. The building floors began at 0 and go up positive and down negative. For example, a house in America can have a first floor, a second floor and a basement. In Spain, it would be first floor = 0 floor, second floor = 1st floor and basement = -1 floor. Yeah, it makes sense to me, but the whole 0 floor gets me all the time.

2. Beaches in Spain: women are allowed to go topless and babies can be naked. There are some nude beaches but you have to go find them haha. I think it would be cool to say that I’ve been to one, but not take part in it!

3. There are so many pigeons in Bilbao, like there are squirrels on the UMW campus. I prefer the squirrels, because they don’t poop everywhere and they cannot fly!! Also, you can get really close to these pigeons and they don’t fly away just walk faster.  Becka and Haley tried to grab one, I would definitely try it.  But I don’t want the locals to think I’m crazy or something…

4. Families and their kids play on the wide sidewalks throughout town, like in the city!! It’s like normal. Kids ride bikes with parents and there are numerous play parks for kids. I feel like it’s more accepted here, in this busy city than in most American cities. But I found out part of the reason is because a lot of people (adults—between 18-26) don’t have jobs so they go out and do things. The unemployment rate is 28.6% !!! That’s crazy and unbelievable!  They do appreciate their environment and enjoy it while they can.

  • Also, that’s what most host families become host families.  They cannot get a job so they get paid good money to care for a college student.  I could dig it.  I mean it’s sad, but you have to do what you can!

5. People tell me wifi is scare, but it doesn’t seem that way! There is wifi in plazas and in coffee shops and such. We just can’t do anything without wifi. America needs to step it up with free wifi in plazas or at parks (if this isn’t already a thing)!

6. People stare a lot. It’s kind of uncomfortable. They stare for a long time too, like I smile back and they look away like I didn’t catch them staring… Yes, it is apart of their culture like I stated in my earlier post, but it can get uncomfortable.  I’ve learned to say HOLA or smile.  One time I did give them a nasty look, but that wasn’t a good day.  They just know we’re Americans and want to admire and observe us! Different right?

7. There is no HUMIDITY here. It’s amazing. When we went to the beach it was nice not having my towel drenched in sweat! I’ve never experienced that before. So it’s so great! The downfall is iI’m dark-skinned so ash is noticeable on me and my skin gets so dry from no humidity.  It’s so crazy!

8. School is really cheap in Europe.  We talked about this in my IB class, which I found interesting.  It makes me want to move to Spain and go to medical school here!  Why not? WHILE IN SPAIN…..  The bad thing is that the job opportunity sucks here.  A fresh out of school doctor gets paid like €2.000 ( which is less than $2,000)

9. There is very little handicap accessibility.  It’s sad, the entrances to most places/building has a little step.  That is nothing.  I was surprised by this.

10. So let’s talk about the bars.  Some places with a bar do not open their kitchens until 8pm or 9pm.  So they serve pinxtos, which are basically small plates of food to go with your drink.  An example is, tortillas de patatas or a mini sandwich.  They are so good, but it sucks when you go with friends before your host mom has made dinner (remember they don’t eat till like 10pm) so you want to go out and look for food, we have to wait till places are open.  It’s a little different and sometimes stinks because you have not had food since 1pm… yep the ultimate struggle!

11.  The stairwell is backwards here.  Look at the picture and the upward stairs are usually on the right.  THEY’RE ON THE LEFT HERE.  I’ve ran into people because no one knows to walk up them.  We’re not use to this!image

12. Everyone smokes here.  Literally before class Thursday all the teachers were outside smoking! I just walked by all of them and said Hola… It has to be a European thing, because even Erin said people smoke out Italy too. I mean I guess it’s culture! I don’t know if you know this but in the UK they are trying to make a talking cigarette pack to try and make smokers stop smoking.  How crazy is that.  They mentioned it on Live with Kelly and Michael (yeah I still watch it when I have time)!

Mon père d’accueil qui lit le journal, et un des…

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Mon père d’accueil qui lit le journal, et un des chats perché derrière lui. Les fenêtres sont peintes pour l’hiver. Vraiment pittoresque! 

Getting There is None of the fun. In fact it’s Quite an Ordeal

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

A person who clearly never flew 14 hours non stop across the Pacific Ocean once said,  “Getting there is half the fun”

Well after the marathon of flight that has compromised the past two days of my existence I sincerely hope that getting there was in no way any portion of the fun of this trip.

Friday 9 am EST

After only having slept for 3 hours due to a marathon of packing and panicking I was awoken by my mother and my next door neighbor coming into my room. I tried to go back to sleep after this disruption but it was not to be. I ventured downstairs and crawled into bed with mom.

Fri 11:30 am EST

Binh came over. Bless him, for it took the two of us another hour to go through my luggage and pair it down to the bare essentials since I was only allowed to have 2 checked bags 50lbs each and one carry on.  And since I am so utterly female in my packing abilities this included far more shoes than I will wear, and easily a pound worth of dangly earrings. So like I said, essentials only. Bihn left all too soon and then(mom wanted to leave for the airport at noon so I guess this is a matter of opinion) it was time for the airport.

Fri 2:30 pm EST

The Lapointe family loads into the minivan and drives to Dulles. Dad makes crude comments and wild arm motions at every driver we pass. Mom scolds and attempts to drive from the passenger seat. Julie laughs hysterically and I snidely comment. So you know, the usual. We arrive at the airport, check in, and then my father, wanting a beer, steers us to the only restaurant in the airport and we all proceed to order way overpriced airport food.

Fri 5:15pm EST

Mom and Julie and I take one last bathroom break before I leave for the shuttle. Once all three of us are in the womens restroom we realize that we have left my father unattended (he must remain under close supervision at all times, ESPECIALLY in public places) . We then hurry out to find him playing hide and seek in the waiting lounge. He wasn’t very good at it though, we found him. I hug my family goodbye and turn to mom to ask her if she is going to cry now. As the tears well up in her eyes she tells me to shut up and pulls me in tight for a hug. Clearly I am my mothers daughter for as she pulls away tears began welling up in my eyes too. After all these years I have of making fun of my mom for crying at the drop of a hat I’ll be damned if she didn’t genetically gift me weak tear ducts.

Fri 5:20-6:20 pm EST

Got through security without incident, lines were very short. Move on to the terminal. I had a few minutes to kill but then it was time to board. I’m seated in the very back of the plane on the aisle.

Fri 6:30 pm EST

Flight leaves Dulles. In flight movie is a depressing but ultimately unmoving and uninspiring documentary about how awful the education system is in the United States. I watch it anyway. This is followed by some re-runs of 30 Rock, which of course makes everything better. Tina Fey is good at that.

Sat 12:30 am EST (9:30 pm Pacific time)

After a good amount of turbulence and a nice chat with the man sitting next to me the flight lands at LAX. LA, unlike VA is cold and rainy. By the time I get off the plane my layover has become more of a run over. I find the terminal I need and then wait for the shuttle alongside many other students that are Australia bound.

Sat 10:15 pm Pacific time (          1:15 am EST)

Shuttle arrives and everyone who gets on it is speaking in an Australian accent. This thrills me. We taxi across the vast expanse of runway blacktop that is LAX and every so often I see a sign that says “Stop for Aircraft” I don’t know why these signs are necessary. I don’t know what ballsy tram driver with an urgent death wish decided to get involved in a game of chicken with a commercial sized passenger jet thus giving the airport a reason to install the signs. This though concerns and perplexes me all the way to the terminal.

Sat 10:30 PT

We arrive at the terminal and are told to board IMMEDIATELY. I refuse to pass up my last opportunity for the next 15 hours to use a real bathroom so I do and then board the plane. The plane is almost completely full by the time I get on it. I have a middle seat this time. GREAT. To my left is a young quiet Australian man who has a lovely accent and says “cheers” instead of thank you. To my right is a very sleepy blonde female German college student. She has just gotten off a nonstop flight from Munich Germany to LAX. Suddenly my life isn’t looking so bad by comparison.  I’m not even on the plane 15 minutes and we are taking off.

Hours 1-3.5 of the flight

I watch The Social Network and Going the Distance.  At somepoint duing The Social Network dinner is served, which seems odd since it isn’t dinner time in the pacific time zone, eastern time zone, or in Australia. When I booked my ticket I asked for a vegetarian option but somehow that request was not properly relayed. I end up eating basically salad and bread followed by some hot tea.

Hours 3.5-6

I spend some time bopping around through random movies. I watched Megamind, which was underwhelming. I started to drift off during it and I think I may have actually fallen asleep for about 20 minutes but I cant be entirely sure. If I did sleep that was the only sleep I got I watched some of 127 hours, well, more like I skimmed through it. It was 20 minutes of plot and character development and then an hour of him sitting with his arm stuck behind a rock and then (spoiler alert!) him cutting off his arm which I knew was going to happen going in.. All the while I was trying VERY hard not to look at the virtual flight tracker that shows you how much time is left in the journey. Six hours feels like a long time until you realize you have 8 more to go, I didn’t need to know that.

Hours 6-8

I have not moved from my seat since we boarded. The german girl has been in and out of sleep and the good looking Australian guy has been fast asleep for the past four hours. I am very jealous of their sleepy time. I am unable to sleep without being fairly horizontal, and since it was a coach class ticket this was not an option. I lament on this for a while, foolishly attempt to sleep in a few different positions and then pull out my laptop and start drafting this blog entry. I watch “Eat, Pray, Love” but having little patience for it ended up fast-forwarding through most of it. I attempted to watch “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” but it was subtitled and since I am trying to read the book right now I decided against watching the whole 2 hour movie.

Hour 9

I finally break down and check the flight tracker, knowing full well it is only going to disappoint me. Sure enough, we have 5 hours and 28 minutes left in the flight. Why did I do that to myself?

Hour 10-12

Watched the documentary “Freakanomics” which was really interesting. I think I will have to pick that book up for my summer reading. Despite my wired tiredness it managed to keep my attention.

Hour 13

Breakfast is served. This feels odd to me since in Eastern Time its midday Saturday but in Australia its very early Sunday morning and “brekkie” time.

Hour 14-15.5

At this point I can’t help myself and I am checking the flight tracker at 20 minute intervals. I also mess around with the tail camera view, which allows you to see the scenery from a camera mounted on the rear of the plane. I start to watch “Morning Glory” but before I could finish it the captain announces that we are about to begin our dissent. Even though I could have kept watching I was so excited to get off the damn plane that I could NOT focus on the movie. I gather up my stuff, turn off and put away my laptop and put my seat belt on LONG before it is asked of us. I am so pumped to not be on a plane anymore. German girl loans me a pen to fill out my declaration form and we talk for the last 30 minutes or so. The Australian guy next to me opens the window for the last 15 minutes and I am mesmerized by the harbor views as we fly in over Botany Bay. It is stunning. So lush and green. I do not feel tired (even though I have now gone 48 hours on 3 hours of sleep) I am just excited to A) get off the plane, B) see a piece of ground for the first time in 15.5 hours, and C) be that much closer to a shower and clean clothes.

We land.

First order of business- find a real bathroom. I wash my face, brush my teeth and feel leagues better. The german girl waits for me to finish and we leave together. We walk together to the baggage claim. She finds her bags….but I don’t. I am really starting to panic until I notice a number of other students standing around looking longingly and hopefully at the empty baggage conveyer belt. Me and four other girls are in the same boat. One girl is from Maryland, two from NY and one from Pittsburg. Instantly we are bonded over frustration and a lack of clean clothes. We are all directed to a woman who sends us to baggage claim services. The woman there explains that our bags did not make it on our flight but made it on the next flight out of LA and would arrive in an hour and a half. We register our bags with her and provide contact information and are told that they will be dropped off at our hotel. Getting through customs is quick and easy. Once out, we are met with the directors for the Study Australia group holding signs saying “The Education Abroad Network.” We are of course the last ones to arrive since it took so long to deal with baggage services.

We are directed to join a huge group of students already waiting outside in the 90+ degree weather (YES) we are given a brief rundown of what is going to happen and then board a charter bus to go into the city and check into our hotels.

So to recap: I AM FINALLY HERE. And I am so excited to be. The energy here is so vibrant and yet incredibly laid back The weather is beautiful and the scenery is more so. Sorry for a lack of images and an intense amount of text. Promise to be more reader-friendly next post. If you made it this far in the post, congratulations, you have survived my long winded-ness. I promise I will find a way to reward you someday.

Salzburg Gets Visitors

Friday, November 27th, 2009

The family came to town last weekend! I picked them up at the Salzburg train station around 1 on Saturday with bus tickets and chocolate bars in hand, and they somehow managed to remain enthusiastic about seeing Salzburg despite the jet lag and the crowded train ride from Munich. Kebaps for lunch revived them a bit and then we trekked down the road to my dorm so that they could see the bad spring break hotel that I’ve been living in for two months and meet Rachelle. We took them into the Cathedral and walked past Mozart’s house. Then we all wandered around the recently opened Christmas markets for a little while before sleepiness got the best of the family, and I had to send them off to their hotel to recover from jet lag. Sunday we wanted to go out into the mountains but then realized we’d missed the only bus of the day out to the hiking trails by about a half an hour. Oh darn. We settled instead for climbing up the fortress hill here in town and looking down over Salzburg from up there. We ate lunch at a beer hall on the hill, and then I let the three of them go into the fortress on their own so that I could get some homework done. That night we took the bus out to Hellbrunn Palace to see one of Salzburg’s other Christmas markets (and because I’d been told that there would be live reindeer at this one) and oohed and ahhed at the twinkly lights and the decorated trees. There was lots of good stuff to be purchased, but alas no reindeer to be seen. Disappointment.

On our way back to their hotel that night we got stuck in epic traffic as 20th Century Fox had so considerately blocked off some of the major roads in Salzburg to film their silly movie. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz came to town to film Knight and Day, which apparently involves people jumping off of roofs and having car chases down narrow streets. Oh, and a helicopter of some sort. And, as if the traffic weren’t bad enough, now we’re all going to need to go see the darn thing when it comes out in July just because we’re going to want to see Salzburg make her cameo appearance. And someone in our group got Tom Cruise to sign his forehead.

Monday we wandered around Salzburg some more, giving my sister plenty of time to accumulate lots of strange stuff at the Christmas markets. Late in the afternoon they tagged along with me and Rachelle to our weekly grocery shopping excursion and proceeded to buy lots of random Austrian goodies. My sister then ordered a hamburger at dinner that night. Fail.

On Tuesday, their final day in the city, we shopped some more (the Christmas markets are endless mazes) and ate lunch at a little out of the way cafe in order to escape the rain. Kirsten, Rachel, and Rachelle joined us in hiking up the Kapuziner Berg that morning, a feat that we had yet to accomplish in Salzburg and which involved quite a lot of steps. But the views were quite awesome.
I had to run away to take a test for our Austrian Culture class, but we said our goodbyes later that night over pizza at a little restaurant near their hotel. They left on a 6:45 train to Munich the next morning. Their trip went so fast, but I’m glad they all could come so that they’re not relying on pictures alone to imagine we’re I’ve been living all fall. It’s a city worth seeing, and one I’m going to have a very hard time saying goodbye to when I leave in less than three weeks.

That’s right, less than three weeks. I still have so much to see and do and papers to write and things to buy and foods to try. But somehow it will all get done. I think. I had fried dough and sauerkraut for dinner at the Christmas market on Wednesday (Austria will clog your arteries) before we went ice skating one more time on, and this time more of the girls came with us so that we had quite a group. My friend Kenza bonded with an adorable Austrian little girl who then kept following us around and holding her hand. Too much cuteness. We had a lot of fun, and I somehow managed not to fall even once.

Thursday was Thanksgiving, though it was hard to notice over here. Some kids were pretty upset about not being home for the holiday, but it was interesting to try and take the Austrian point of view and see it as any other Thursday in November. Some of us went to the weekly farmers’ market in the morning and marveled at the endless amounts of cheese and breads and meat. I have determined I’m going to need to live in a city with markets. They make life much more fun. That night, after an afternoon session of paper writing, we did get some semblance of holidayness when we all got dressed up to go to dinner. It wasn’t turkey and mashed potatoes, but it was a good meal at the oldest restaurant in central Europe, as well as performances of various numbers from Mozart’s operas. The restaurant was beautiful, and it was nice to be there as one big group to help ward off the homesickness some people were feeling.

Dinner didn’t wind down until about 11 at night, and yet 21 out of the 36 of us were up and ready to drive to Innsbruck at 6:30 this morning. We drove down through the Alps in the dark, arriving in the still sleepy town of Rattenberg while the frost still clung to the grass and the sun wasn’t high enough to melt the fog off of the mountains.
In typical Andreas style, we hiked our way up a hill to see a fortress that it turns out we couldn’t get into anyway. But the views were good, and the hike kept us from freezing in the early morning mountains so no one complained too loudly. After our stop over we got to Innsbruck about a half our later. Two time home of the Winter Olympics, Innsbruck is much further into the mountains than Salzburg, and the peaks looked almost fake in all of their snow capped hugeness. We stopped for strudel at a little bakery (sour cherry and cinnamon-yum!) before going on a tour of the city with Andreas. The Christmas markets are all set up in Innsbruck as well, so the whole city smelled like Austrian Christmas- sauerkraut, chestnuts, and cinnamon.
Innsbruck is rather like Salzburg in that many of its streets are winding and narrow, and the buildings themselves old and smashed together at strange angles. But Innsbruck has giants built into their streets and a Fairy Tale passage featuring statues of dozens of different fairy tales. We had fun trying to decipher the stories we knew from the German titles. After the tour we had just enough time to catch lunch and do some souvenir shopping before it was back on the bus and off to the town of Hall, a little outside of Innsbruck. Hall was another typical Austrian town, complete with Christmas decorations and church spires. Had Andreas had his way we would have made multiple stops after Hall, but we all insisted that sheer exhaustion was putting a damper on the touring, and so we all piled back on the bus for the last leg of our last AIFS excursion of the semester. We had a Sound of Music singalong before curling up as best we could in our seats and falling asleep on the 2.5 hour drive back to Salzburg.

Tonight we’re tired, there’s a party of Spanish speakers going on outside our door, and I’m wishing I had maybe done some homework instead of mess with blog entries and photo updates. But what’s done is done. Tomorrow we’re getting together with the girls at Frau Shoettke’s to ring in the Christmas season by improvising Christmas cookies as best we can with the measuring utensils and ingredients we could muster up. Should be fun, and hopefully the results will be edible. Sunday is a ‘real football’ face-off between Salzburg and Vienna, so we’re going to try and be there to cheer on our Red Bulls. So much to see and do, so little time! For better or worse, we’re on the home stretch.